— Bullpen consistency. On days when the starter gets yanked early, bridging the gap to solid setup man Mitchell Boggs and closer Jason Motte has been a challenge. It's been rough going for Marc Rzepczynski and Fernando Salas, both of whom have ERAs above 5.00 after being major assets last year.
— Off and on offense. They are No. 2 overall in the majors, trailing only the Texas Rangers. They're second in average at .275 and fourth in runs with 426, and have scored in double digits 10 times. Yet they've been shut out six times and held to two or fewer runs 15 other times, including five straight games in mid-June.
"We've scored a bunch or we've scored a little," Matheny said. "We go in spurts of doing both, and when we're having trouble we've got to do what we can to jump-start things."
— Rotation fatigue. Entering the year, the thinking was the innings load needed to be closely monitored with Lynn and Adam Wainwright, who missed all last season after reconstructive elbow surgery. Now they are minus innings-eating Chris Carpenter.
Lynn worked six shutout innings against Colorado in his final pre-break start, quieting speculation he might be worn down from the heavy load. The previous three starts, Lynn gave up more than a run per inning.
"I've felt the best I have all year, I just wasn't executing," Lynn said before the All-Star game. "It seemed like one pitch cost me. I was riding high and then I was riding real low pretty quick, and that's what baseball does to you."
Lynn thoroughly enjoyed the All-Star experience and had been hoping to pitch. No rest needed, thank you.
"For the guys you play against to vote you in, that means they think a lot of you," Lynn said. "Hopefully, I can keep having the success I've had."
Last year, the Cardinals were 49-43 at the break. They stumbled into the second half, losing four of five, before mounting the surge combined with the Atlanta Braves' collapse that opened the door for one of baseball's most stirring never-say-die tales.
So far, Holliday gives this season a grade of just "all right."
"I know we'll be ready," Holliday said in Kansas City. "We've got to play better than we did in the first half, and I'm confident in our team."
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