St. Louis (42-26) at Chicago (44-25)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 40° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Tue Jun 20, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals are two of the best teams in baseball, and they’re playing like it.

Only one will be able to keep its winning streak going when the teams meet for the opener of a three-game interleague set on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox (44-25) and Cardinals (42-26) have both won four straight and six of seven, and hold the second-best records in their respective leagues. St. Louis owns a 10-5 advantage in the all-time series, and swept all three games with the White Sox in 2001 when the teams last met.

The Cardinals, who also will face Detroit on their six-game road trip, are looking to match their season-high five-game winning streak from May 17-21. Their current streak includes a three-game sweep of Colorado, capped by a 4-1 victory on Sunday.

Scott Rolen hit a two-run homer in the first inning, his ninth of the season, after going 0-for-7 in the first two games of the series. The Cardinals third baseman is hitting .383 (18-for-47) with 16 RBIs in the third spot over the last 13 games since NL MVP Albert Pujols went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique.

“It’s great to see him swinging the bat well,” said Pujols, who has been taking grounders and swinging the bat. “He’s not here to carry this whole team because it’s not possible, he just wants to do his job and help us win.”

St. Louis has gone 8-5 without Pujols and is 16 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season. Though he is eligible to come off the disabled list for the start of this series, it remains uncertain when Pujols will be able to rejoin the lineup.

Mark Mulder (6-4, 5.32 ERA) will try to help the Cardinals continue their strong play when he takes the mound on Tuesday.

The left-hander is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in eight career starts versus the White Sox, going at least eight innings in six of those outings, including three complete games.

Mulder went 5-1 with a 3.69 ERA in his first nine starts this season, but is 1-3 with a 9.24 ERA in the last five. He earned his first win in five starts on Thursday, but was still shaky, allowing four runs and nine hits over five innings in a 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh. He walked two and tied a season high with six strikeouts.

“I think he took another step forward,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Javier Vazquez (7-4, 4.54) tries to snap a five-game losing streak to St. Louis when he takes the ball for Chicago. The right-hander is 1-6 with a 4.13 ERA in eight career starts against the Cardinals, but some of those losses have come due to a lack of support as Vazquez has pitched two complete games and recorded 55 strikeouts.

Vazquez had a three-game winning streak snapped with an 8-0 loss to Texas on Wednesday, when he gave up six runs, including two homers, and 10 hits over six innings. Vazquez struck out seven, and has totaled 23 strikeouts with four walks in 18 innings over his last three starts.

He is 8-10 with a 4.25 ERA in 25 career interleague starts, but the White Sox have fared much better, going 5-1 during interleague play this season.

Chicago beat Cincinnati 8-1 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep and a 6-1 road trip. Jon Garland went eight innings for the win and became the first White Sox pitcher to hit a home run in 35 years with his two-run shot.

Rob Mackowiak was 4-for-4 in the victory while Jermaine Dye, who is 4-for-6 against Mulder, went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs.

“That’s the way we are built,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team has won 10 of 13 and is a season-high 19 games over the break-even mark. “If we don’t execute, we aren’t going to win.”

St. Louis shortstop David Eckstein, who has missed three straight games with a mild concussion, is expected back in the lineup Tuesday.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Mulder StL vs. J. Vázquez Mia
6-7 Record 11-12
7.14 ERA 4.84
50 K 184
35 BB 56
1.70 WHIP 1.29