The St. Louis Cardinals are a virtual lock to be playing meaningful baseball in October.
Owners of the best record and the National League, the Cardinals will look to make it consecutive wins over the Arizona Diamondbacks when the teams resume their four-game series.
The Cardinals have won three straight overall and are one of just four teams to have at least 50 wins. They also own the largest lead of any of the division leaders, 11 1/2 games over the Chicago Cubs.
The defending NL champs will also be sending six players to next week’s All-Star game in Detroit.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa doesn’t see his team slowing down any time soon.
“I think we’ve looked pretty much the same every day,” La Russa said. “I don’t seen anybody backing off. We’re playing hard every day. I think our starting pitching is pretty consistent and we can pitch the back end of the game.”
One of those players heading to Detroit is Albert Pujols. The slugging first baseman is riding a 16-game hitting streak after going 1-for-4 with an RBI in Monday’s 10-3 win. Pujols, who is batting a team-high .341, is hitting .400 (24-for-60) with five homers and 15 RBIs during his streak. He has also enjoyed tremendous success against Shawn Estes, the Diamondbacks’ starter on Tuesday, hitting .412 (7-for-17) with three homers and 11 RBIs.
The Cardinals should also have Reggie Sanders back in the lineup on Tuesday.
Sanders missed his second straight start Monday because of a sprained right foot, but planned to play Tuesday.
“I’ll be back out there,” said Sanders, who has 60 starts in left field.
In his place, John Mabry had a season-high four hits and drove in two runs for the Cardinals on Monday.
Maybe the fact that the Cardinals will be facing Estes hastened Sanders’ return. The veteran outfielder is hitting .407 (11-for-27) in his career against the 32-year-old southpaw.
The Diamondbacks have lost five of seven.
Troy Glaus broke out of an 0-for-16 slide Monday with two hits, including a two-run homer, and three RBIs.
“Regardless of what team you’re playing, you’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities,” Glaus said. “Today, we just didn’t, and that was it.”
Right fielder Shawn Green is batting .450 (9-for-20) over his last six games, the last two as the cleanup hitter.