St. Louis (56-41) at Colorado (46-51)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Denver, CO
Temp: 73° F
  • Game info: 9:05 pm EDT Mon Jul 24, 2006
  • TV: FSMW, FSRM
Preview | Box Score | Recap

National League home run leader Albert Pujols tries to take advantage of the thin air in Colorado as the St. Louis Cardinals open a three-game series against the Rockies at Coors Field on Monday.

Pujols, who has 32 homers, was 0-for-2 with two walks in Sunday’s 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending his season-high 11-game hitting streak. The All-Star first baseman is still batting .417 (20-for-48) with four homers and 12 RBIs in his last 12 games.

Pujols is 23-for-68 (.338) with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in 19 career games at Coors Field.

The Cardinals (56-41) are 5-1 against the Rockies (46-51) this season, winning five straight games over Colorado for the first time in franchise history.

St. Louis has won 10 straight games against NL West opponents and is 17-5 against that division this season. The Cardinals swept the season series over the Dodgers with Sunday’s win for the first time in the 115-year rivalry.

St. Louis has the eighth-most home runs in the NL with 102, but set a franchise record by homering in its 19th consecutive game on Sunday.

“This team this year really doesn’t play by the long ball, so it’s surprising,” said Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds, who has 15 home runs this season—four in his last six games.

“We have a lot of guys who are pretty good at doing their jobs, doing everything right and being above-average, as far as power. I mean, if you told me we were going to have three or four guys hit 30 or 40 homers, I wouldn’t believe you. But I think we’re capable of having five or six guys with 20.”

Juan Encarnacion hit two solo homers on Sunday, and is batting .406 (13-for-32) with three homers in 10 games since the All-Star break. Encarnacion, though, is 2-for-9 (.222) with two home runs lifetime against Monday’s starter, Jeff Francis (7-8, 3.98 ERA).

Francis allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings of a 13-4 victory Tuesday over Pittsburgh, just his second win since June 12.

Francis, who won 14 games last season, is 2-3 with a 4.46 ERA in his last six starts.

The 25-year-old left-hander is 4-3 with a 3.66 ERA in eight games at Coors Field this season, and 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA in five home starts since May 3.

Francis is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA in three career starts against St. Louis.

The Cardinals will counter with rookie Anthony Reyes (2-3, 3.83), who looks to build off of his first win since May 20.

Reyes allowed two runs and seven hits in five innings of an 11-3 win July 16 over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I just need to find a way to start going deeper into ballgames,” Reyes said. “I need to stop using a lot of pitches and try to work ahead in the counts.”

Reyes has pitched only five innings in each of his previous four starts, going 1-2 with a 5.85 ERA in that span.

The 24-year-old right-hander has never faced the Rockies.

Colorado had a four-run ninth-inning rally Sunday to defeat Arizona 9-7 and avoid a sweep of the three-game series. Third baseman Garrett Atkins hit a two-run double with one out in the ninth to give the Rockies the lead.

“Stuff like this definitely does spark a team, and I hope it does for us,” second baseman Jamey Carroll said.

Atkins is batting .405 (15-for-37) with seven doubles and seven RBIs in 10 games since the break.

Fifth-place Colorado has won just two of its last 13 games, but trails first-place San Diego in the NL West by only 4 1/2 games.

The NL Central-leading Cardinals have won 11 of their last 13 games, opening a five-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds.

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Starting Pitchers

A. Reyes Cle vs. J. Francis NYY
5-8 Record 13-11
5.06 ERA 4.16
72 K 117
34 BB 69
1.38 WHIP 1.29