STL@PIT: Kozma grounds an RBI single up the middle

CINCINNATI -- Pete Kozma teased the Cardinals with his offensive exhibition last season.

That's OK with manager Mike Matheny, who is well aware of the potential the shortstop possesses with his bat.

Kozma batted .333 with a .952 OPS in 26 games for the Cardinals late last season. He posted a .955 OPS with five RBIs in the National League Division Series and delivered the game-winning hit in a decisive Game 5.

This year, Kozma totes a .236 average with a .579 OPS in 101 contests. Matheny isn't overly concerned.

"Overall, his job first and foremost is he needs to catch the ball, play the defense that he has been all season and contribute how he can offensively," Matheny said.

In his first full season, Kozma leads the league with 68 hits from the No. 8 hole in the batting order and ranks second with 26 RBIs from that spot.

"He does a nice job competing and going through every at-bat, getting big hits for us," Matheny said. "I think it's a big deal in that eighth spot, getting the RBI when you have the opportunity. I think people recognize that."

Eventually, Matheny figures the Cardinals will benefit from offensive production from the 25-year-old more reminiscent of last season's display.

"I don't think we've seen what he can potentially be," Matheny said. "We saw last year a guy who's an offensive force on our club and I think he definitely has that potential."

Matheny not immune to second-guessing decisions

CINCINNATI -- Fans, reporters and those with an affinity for hindsight aren't the only ones who second-guess managerial decisions.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny does it, too. After each game, he reviews every juncture of the affair in which his input, or lack thereof, could have influenced the eventual outcome.

"I go through every play after the game, every decision, every non-decision," Matheny said, "and figure out, 'Was I prepared more?' and 'Did I go through everything? Did I miss anything along the way that could've helped me make a better decision?'

"It's really easy to say, 'That didn't work, so I should've done something else.' But if I go through the checkpoints and realize I covered the things that I was supposed to cover, then I know that that was the right decision, even if it didn't work out. So I take a lot of responsibility."

The second-year skipper said he learned a lot about decision-making during the Cardinals' recent seven-game losing streak.

"It's amazing when you're going through a rut like that," Matheny said. "Almost every decision you make, it comes down to that touch and feel and it seems to go the wrong way. When things are going right, you throw something out there and it just happens to work."

As a former catcher, Matheny used to have a hand in every pitch his team tossed, which could explain his meticulous managerial habits. Matheny is one of 12 current Major League managers to have played catcher during their professional career.

"There are many reasons why it seems advantageous for catchers in this managerial position," Matheny said. "You go pitch by pitch. You can second-guess 150 particular things that you did that night and every one of them can be very influential in how the game turned out.

"And you learn that if you keep wallowing in those decisions you made that didn't work, then you probably aren't going to get any better and you're not going to be very effective moving forward. So you learn from it, put it in the memory bank and you move on."

Cards eager to get home after rocky road trip

CINCINNATI -- Home is where the heart is.

It's where the more comfortable beds are, and where players' families reside.

It's also where the Cardinals -- and most teams -- tend to perform better.

Following Sunday's matinee, the Cardinals will return to the Gateway City for a much-welcomed 10-game homestand. After playing 11 games in 10 days in three cities -- and losing eight of the first 10 contests -- it's safe to say the Cardinals are eager to get home.

"We're not looking past today," manager Mike Matheny said Sunday morning, "but we're anxious to get home."

St. Louis boasts a 32-17 record at Busch Stadium and a 32-28 mark in road games. The Cardinals are one of only three National League clubs with a winning record on the road. After Sunday's affair in Cincinnati, the Cardinals will play 32 of their remaining 52 games at home.

"We enjoy being home," Matheny said. "I don't think we necessarily play any better at home than we do on the road, as far as caliber of play. But there's no doubt that there's an advantage to having guys around their families, sleeping in their own beds and not having a trip like this."

Worth noting

• Manager Mike Matheny intended to give Matt Carpenter the entire day off on Saturday, but his plan did not pan out accordingly. Carpenter, now mired in an 0-for-20 slump, entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning and remained in the contest at second base.

"I was hoping to [avoid using him], but these guys all know winning a game comes first," Matheny said.

• Matheny has received encouraging reports on catcher Yadier Molina and outfielder Shane Robinson, who both landed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday. Neither player has initiated baseball activities yet. Molina, dealing with swelling in his right knee, has received treatment and has done minor exercises.

"There are days when we push him a little bit and he's aching the next day," Matheny said, "but the concentration has been getting the swelling out and getting him healed."

• Matheny said he isn't concerned that closer Edward Mujica has only made one appearance during the Cardinals' 11-game road trip. The right-hander has only pitched once since July 25.

As for the flashy suit Mujica sported on Saturday?

"It reminded me of the movie 'Dumb and Dumber,'" Matheny said. "It was just missing a top hat and a cane."