CHICAGO — Amid several disturbing trends in the Cardinals’ season is the one in which they score in double figures one night and then barely at all the next. For example, in the last two weeks and a day, the Cardinals three times have tallied 11 or more runs in a runaway victory. In the next game, they scored one run, then two runs and on Wednesday night no runs.
Suffice it to say that the Cardinals dropped all three, including a 4-0 verdict to the Chicago White Sox and impressive lefthander Carlos Rodon.
Tommy Pham, the Cardinals’ skidding center fielder, wore his four strikeouts hard Wednesday. He was playing after missing the previous game with a sore left foot.
“I know that it didn’t go how he wanted it to go, but he said he felt fine,” manager Mike Matheny said.
“My foot is fine,” said Pham, whose whiff with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth was particularly key.
Pham said much of the Cardinals’ inconsistency on offense starts with him, and the Cardinals’ three games after the respective big outbursts bear him out. He has gone nothing for 11 in those games with one walk.
And he says it’s time to go to the doctor. Not the eye doctor. Or the foot doctor. But, during the All-Star break, he wants to visit one of his swing doctors, a Dominican known only as “Sosa,” who operates out of Miami and has worked with teammate Jose Martinez and Boston slugger J.D. Martinez.
“Hands on,” said Pham, “so he can get me back to where I need to be. I know what I’m doing. I just don’t know how to fix it. If I knew how to fix it, I would have already fixed it.
“I need to figure out how to get my body back in the right position.”
In fact, Pham, nothing for his last 14, is down to .243, his lowest average since he was hitting .143 seven at-bats into the season.
“My swing is terrible,” said Pham, who has been wrestling with his body and swing placement for weeks. He was hitting .303 on May 21, when he stole his eighth base of the season. He has nine now because he isn’t getting on base, and he was on the phone to “Sosa” shortly after Wednesday’s game.
Pham was called out on strikes again Wednesday, a regular occurrence lately. “If I was hitting, those calls won’t happen,” he said, “because last year I was hitting and I didn’t get those (negative) calls.
“Early in the year, when I was hitting, we were a great team,” he said. “The numbers backed it up.”
On May 21, the Cardinals were 1½ games out of first place. Now, they are seven behind Milwaukee.
“When I get on base, I’ll help out Jose,” said Pham. “He’s a great fastball hitter and pitchers will throw him more of those when I’m on base. I have to do my part to help out everyone else.”
Rodon and the Cardinals’ Luke Weaver, no doubt, had had this battle before. Rodon was a No. 1 pick out of North Carolina State in 2014 and Weaver the same for Florida State, which is an Atlantic Coast Conference rival of the Wolfpack. .
Making just his seventh start since having shoulder surgery in September, Rodon held the Cardinals to three hits over 7 1/3 innings, striking out seven. Weaver, who had given up just two hits in eight innings in his previous start, permitted only three in six innings this time, also striking out seven. But one of the hits set up a run in the fifth inning.
“They didn’t give up a whole lot,” Matheny said. “It was going to be one of those, ‘Who flinches first?’’’
“(Rodon) pitched a heck of a game,” said Weaver. “You’ve just got to tip your hat.”
Weaver recalled “quite a few” Friday matchups in college between the two.
“In my mind, it always was the most ‘fun’ matchup,” said Weaver. “I knew I always had to bring my best stuff, just like tonight.
“You wanted it to be a pitchers’ duel because you knew he wasn’t going to give up many runs and I tried to do the same.
“It was a lot of fun tonight. I remember winning the last (matchup) He might have got the one before. He would strike out a whole lot of hitters. I would just try to get mine here and there.
“He was a big-time draft pick (No. 3), so I just tried to keep up with him.” Weaver was chosen 27th in the first round in 2014.
“If I could tell him, I’d tell him, ‘Nice job.’’’ said Weaver.
Rodon had faced the Cardinals once before, allowing seven runs in four innings three years ago. Kolten Wong played in that game and said that on Wednesday, Rodon “had a lot more command of his fastball. He was able to throw it at different speeds and ... that slider was ‘on’ tonight.”
The Cardinals wrapped up a 5-4 trip to three stops — Arizona, San Francisco and Chicago — and dropped back to plus-three at 47-44. Their nadir in the trip finale came in the eighth inning, when they loaded the bases with one out on Paul DeJong’s bloop single, an error by White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada and a walk to Matt Carpenter.
Rodon was lifted after his four-pitch walk to Carpenter ran him to 104 pitches and promptly punched a blower in the dugout — with his right hand. But his disgust soon turned to elation when hard-throwing Juan Minaya fanned Pham. Then veteran righthander Joakim Soria struck out Martinez on a slider to quell the threat.
A leadoff walk to Leury Garcia bit Weaver in the fifth. Omar Narvaez singled Garcia to third and a Tim Anderson grounder to shortstop DeJong, who made a good play to get a force at second, pushed in Garcia with the game’s first run.
“Leadoff walks always end up haunting you a little bit,” Weaver said. “Lesson learned. Try to get ahead of the first hitter.”
Carpenter doubled with one out in the Cardinals’ sixth for the first extra-base hit of the game. But Pham struck out for the third time and Martinez tapped to Rodon.
Mike Mayers, who had seven scoreless outings in his past eight, was touched for two runs in the seventh on a two-out single by Narvaez, a double to left by Anderson that chased the catcher home and a bloop single by former Cardinals minor leaguer Charlie Tilson.
Jordan Hicks allowed a leadoff triple to Moncada in the eighth, and Moncada slid home onto the discarded bat of Jose Abreu, who had tapped to Hicks.
And the Cardinals headed home, having won the first game of this trip but not the last one.