Still without two of their top hitters, the St. Louis Cardinals look to rebound from their first series loss in more than a month when they open a three-game set against the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Playing without center fielder Jim Edmonds and third baseman Scott Rolen, the Cardinals fell 5-2 at Toronto on Wednesday, losing two of three in that interleague series. It was their first series loss since dropping three straight to San Diego from May 5-7.
St. Louis had gone 34 games without losing a series, going 23-11 during that span to extend its lead in the NL Central from four games to 6 1/2 over the Chicago Cubs.
The Cardinals recorded a 7-0 victory in the middle game of the series, but were held to a combined three runs in two losses.
“It was a pitchers game in all three,” St. Louis’ Larry Walker said. “I guess if we played another one, it would be a 2-2 series with some kind of pitching duel for us.”
Rolen has been sidelined since sustaining a shoulder injury on May 10 that required surgery. He isn’t expected to return until next week’s series against Cincinnati at the earliest.
St. Louis has played well without the slugging third baseman, going 20-12 since his injury. Rolen’s absence, however, is particularly noticeable against left-handers since he hit .371 against southpaws last season, second-best in the NL.
Edmonds missed all three games against Toronto due to bruised left ribs, and isn’t likely to play Friday with the Cardinals facing left-hander Scott Kazmir.
“It’s not doing too good,” Edmonds said of his injury.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, a Tampa native, is two wins shy of tying Bucky Harris for fourth place in all-time managerial wins at 2,157. The Devil Rays are the only franchise St. Louis has not beaten in the regular season.
“I wish I could blink my eyes and it be Sunday afternoon and we’re leaving,” said La Russa, referring to all the friends and relatives awaiting his team’s arrival. “You don’t want to offend anybody. Everybody wants personal time.”
The Devil Rays have won three of four following a seven-game losing streak, but still own the worst record in the AL.