Cards’ Matheny offers no excuses

Cardinals midseason: Home form must improve

The team with baseball’s best regular-season record endured a disappointing finish, but St. Louis manager Mike Matheny won’t offer a defense for the Cardinals’ early playoff exit.

“We’ve done a really good job all season of not relying on any excuses,” Matheny said. “Regardless of who we didn’t have, we felt that next man up was going to get the job done.”

The Cardinals went 100-62 during the regular season to win the National League Central title, but they were knocked out by the division-rival Chicago Cubs in their opening playoff series.

St. Louis won the National League Division Series opener, but Chicago captured the next three — including an 6-4 decision Tuesday — to advance to the NL championship series.

A Cardinals victory Tuesday would have sent the series back to St. Louis for a decisive Game 5.

“That’s always hard to walk away from,” Matheny said. “We had an opportunity maybe to get back home and do things differently, but they took advantage of the opportunities they had.”

The Cardinals rolled through the regular season despite a series of injuries that altered lineups.

The latest was the loss of catcher Yadier Molina, who sat out Tuesday’s Game 4 due to weakness in an already injured thumb.

“I have no regrets with this club, and that’s the message that I made sure they heard (after the game),” Matheny said. “This team never let off the throttle, and that’s hard to do through a season that’s this long. They were grinding right to the end.”