After 40 games last season, the Cardinals were 26-14 and had a 1 1/2-game lead in the National League Central. They were batting over .300 with runners on and seemed unstoppable. This year hasn't been the same.
The Cardinals head into Wednesday's game at Busch Stadium against the Cubs still trying to find themselves.
"I still think this is a talented club and I still believe in it," St. Louis general manager John 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."
Monday's loss, a 17-5 romp by the Cubs, was "embarrassing," Mozeliak said.
"We have to do a better job than that," he said. "Everybody's accountable for that. Certainly, you've got to see things changing."
After the Cardinals evened the series with Tuesday's 4-3 walk-off win in 12 innings, Michael Wacha gets the start Wednesday, and the right-hander is 1-1 against the Cubs this season, picking up a win in St. Louis on April 13 and taking the loss May 3 at Wrigley Field. Chicago batted .213 against him in the two games, collecting 10 hits over 12 1/3 total innings.
Jason Hammel will take the mound for the Cubs, looking for his fifth win and a chance to avenge a no-decision against the Cardinals on May 4. In that game, the right-hander gave up three runs over six innings. Jhonny Peralta will likely be in the St. Louis lineup; he's 8-for-17 against Hammel in his career with two homers and eight RBIs.
Hammel ranks fourth in the NL in WHIP, which is the statistic he feels pitchers should be graded on.
"I just know that after a while, you figure out -- if you don't let them on base, you don't have to deal with them," Hammel said.
What lineup will Chicago manager Rick Renteria come up with? He's had the same lineup in back-to-back games only once this season. While fans are clamoring for more of Mike Olt, who leads all NL rookies with eight home runs, Renteria wants the third baseman to play in favorable matchups to help his development. Patience is the key word for the Cubs.
The Cardinals aren't used to being patient. They've scored fewer runs this season than the Cubs (153-149), and are averaging 3.7 runs per game, which is a full run lower than last season. The lack of offense has hurt Wacha. St. Louis is averaging 2.1 runs of support through his eight starts and has lost his last five outings.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is tired of talking about finding key moments to turn things around.
"I keep saying, 'This is the one,'" Matheny said. "I'm done. I'm done with that. It's just a bunch of hot air. If I was a listener, I'd be tired of hearing it. I'm tired of saying it. We just have to do it. That's all there is to it."
Cubs: Painting Wrigley green
Wrigley Field's landmark marquee will return to its original green color with gold trim on Wednesday. The change is part of the ballpark's 100th anniversary party.
On Wednesday, the Cubs and Benjamin Moore will begin painting the marquee to match its mid-1930s color scheme. The sign, located at Clark and Addison streets, was installed in 1934.
The Cubs worked with Harboe Architects and Wiss, Janney, Elsnter Associates, Inc. to research the marquee's color scheme from the era, which included removing layers of paint and primer to expose the first layer of enamel. Samples were then color-matched by Benjamin Moore to determine the Mallard Green and French Quarter Gold paints that will be used.
Benjamin Moore will provide limited-edition Cubs/Benjamin Moore T-shirts for up to 1,000 fans who want to view the painting event Wednesday. Guests will be invited to paint a large-scale baseball bat-themed mural on-site.
The first brush stroke is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. CT.
Cardinals: Bullpen seeks a respite
St. Louis' bullpen has carried a heavy load through the first two games of this series and could use a deep start by Wacha to reset on Wednesday. After covering five innings in Monday's 12-run loss, the 'pen handled another six in a 12-inning game on Tuesday. Trevor Rosenthal's inability to hold a one-run lead in the ninth forced Matheny to use three additional relievers.
The Cardinals were able to stay away from Randy Choate, who threw 35 pitches in the series opener. It's questionable whether Choate will be available on Wednesday. St. Louis will certainly be without right-hander Seth Maness, who has pitched on four consecutive days.
The Cards will be helped by the fact that they fortified their 'pen on Tuesday by bringing up a pair of fresh relievers from Triple-A Memphis. Sam Freeman took the mound and threw a scoreless inning in the extra-inning game. Jorge Rondon is still waiting for his first big league opportunity.
"When these times come, basically the conversation goes toward the front office and our development and the coaching staff in the Minor Leagues," Matheny said in explaining the choice of promoted pitchers. "We all get together and figure out who looks the most prepared and is ready to come and help us, whose throwing the ball well. Jorge has been throwing the ball exceptionally well, as Sam Freeman has."
• Starlin Castro committed his sixth error of the season and first since May 3 in the sixth inning Tuesday. He's tied for second among NL shortstops in miscues with the Padres' Everth Cabrera.
• Neil Ramirez threw a season-high 1 2/3 innings in relief for the Cubs on Tuesday.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.