ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals will hit the quarter-mark of their season after Tuesday's game, and yet will reach it no better than a .500 club. It's a sobering place to be for the defending National League champs, who were a preseason heavy favorite to repeat as division winners.
General manager John Mozeliak went so far as to describe his club's start as "concerning" during a candid session with the media on Tuesday.
"I still think this is a talented club and I still believe in it," Mozeliak said. "But having a belief in something is far different than actually getting it done. I think right now it's still early in the season where you can't hit the panic button. But you've got to see the trend line change a little bit. ... I think the [19-20] record reflects how we've played, certainly."
Manager Mike Matheny, a perpetual optimist, was similarly blunt as he addressed the state of his team following a 17-5 rout by the Cubs on Monday.
"I think our record might be a little better than what the product looks like," Matheny said. "I think we're fortunate to be where we are record-wise with how we've played, and the guys would agree with that. We've seen some really good. I still don't think we've seen as good as we can be. What matters to us is the consistency of good, and that we certainly haven't seen."
The underachieving has been the result of several different issues. For one, the Cardinals have been unable to sustain positive momentum, seen again with Monday's loss. The team has yet to sweep a series and has only one winning streak of more than two games.
Relief pitching, particularly in the middle innings, has been porous. Good starting pitching has been wasted by an unreliable offense, one that has struggled to extend leads and erase deficits. That offense, Mozeliak said, will be something the Cardinals address internally (think: Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Randal Grichuk, etc.) and/or externally (the non-waiver Trade Deadline) if the results don't improve.
"I can't imagine us just doing nothing all season and just say our strategy is you're going to rise up to your mean," Mozeliak said. "For us, there are some things we want to be sensitive to. The month of July is an opportunity to maybe change the look of your club if you have to. The clock's ticking, but it's not in a panic mode or a reactionary place where you have to just do something to do something. I think people have to be aware that this is not acceptable baseball at this point."
The Cardinals, who have a run differential of plus-three, are averaging 3.7 runs per game, one run fewer than the club averaged through 39 games last year. And a year after hitting an historic .330 with runners in scoring position, the Cardinals have a .237 average in such spots.
"It seems like it's getting more consistent, but it's still not at that level where you felt we were going to be when we broke camp," Mozeliak said. "I think that's one of those self-reflection moments. Players have to look at themselves, the staff needs to look at themselves. We all have to see where we are on this."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.