CINCINNATI -- Over the last week, the knot in Mike Matheny's stomach kept growing more and more painful.
Each morning, the manager said, he awoke with a sharp pain in his gut, an ache he couldn't explain until he remembered the result from the previous night: another Cardinals loss.
"Every loss is gut-wrenching," Matheny said. "Especially when they start to compound. ... You wake up with that knot and you go, 'What was that for?' And you go, 'Oh yeah.'"
St. Louis snapped its seven-game skid with a resounding, 13-0, triumph in Pittsburgh on Thursday. Matheny has stressed to his team to never get too high or too low during the ebbs and flows of a season. Now that the season-long losing streak is in the rearview mirror, the team is poised to demonstrate how they learned from their slumber.
"You learn a lot more about your team when you're struggling," said veteran hurler Jake Westbrook.
Matheny said the Cardinals took each loss equally as hard during the week-long funk, which included a three-game sweep at the hands of Atlanta before four straight defeats in Pittsburgh. St. Louis tumbled from the top spot in the National League Central and entered its weekend series at Cincinnati facing a 1 1/2-game deficit in the division.
"It was like a morgue in the clubhouse," the skipper said.
Each day, however, that somber setting morphed into an upbeat one. Matheny identified it as a sign of a winning team.
"It was like they had amnesia, forgot everything and realized today's the day we can right this," Matheny said. "We can't do it by dragging."
There was no morgue-like atmosphere following Thursday's win. And Matheny woke up on Friday knot-free.
"It was a big deal," he said. "When you do get one, especially in the fashion we did, it definitely tastes pretty good."