The Arizona Diamondbacks’ latest funk has caused them to drop out of first place in the NL West. It won’t be easy getting back on track, either, as they visit a city where they’ve had minimal success.
The Diamondbacks look to avoid losing their third straight game when they open a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Monday night.
Arizona (46-37) was in first place in the division on June 24, but has lost five of its last seven games to fall into third place in the NL West, 1 1/2 games back of first-place San Diego.
The Diamondbacks suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season on Sunday, losing 13-0 to San Francisco, and have scored just one run in losing their last two games.
They are tied with Atlanta for the third-best road record in the NL (21-18), but winning in St. Louis (36-42) has been problematic for Arizona.
The Diamondbacks lost two of three at Busch Stadium last season, and have not won a series there since 2003. They are 11-20 all-time in regular-season play in St. Louis, their worst record at any NL city.
Brandon Webb (8-5, 3.05 ERA) tries to lead Arizona to a rare win at Busch Stadium, and build his All-Star case when he takes the hill on Monday.
Webb won last season’s NL Cy Young Award and is having a solid 2007, but has not yet been named to the NL All-Star team. He can still make consecutive All-Star trips, though, if fans choose him as part of the final vote.
The right-hander is coming off one of his better starts of the season, as he gave up seven hits and five walks in seven innings of Wednesday’s 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He improved to 5-2 in his last seven starts, and Arizona is 12-5 this season with its ace on the mound.
“That’s kind of what your No. 1 pitcher is supposed to do: Go out there and give your team a good chance to win,” Webb said. “So that definitely was satisfying.”
Webb’s best start of his 2006 Cy Young season came against St. Louis, as he threw a one-hitter in the Diamondbacks’ 3-0 victory on Sept. 9. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak to the Cardinals, as he improved to 1-3 with a 4.08 ERA in five career starts against them.
St. Louis defeated Cincinnati 11-7 on Sunday, and has alternated wins and losses in its last six games.
Albert Pujols, who was selected to his sixth All-Star game on Sunday, is just 3-for-15 (.200) with a double in his career against Webb.
Braden Looper (6-6, 4.66) is slated to come off the disabled list and pitch Monday’s series opener, after missing the last two weeks with a right shoulder strain.
Looper got knocked around in his last two starts before being placed on the DL, giving up 13 runs in 10 1-3 innings in those games. The right-hander is a starting pitcher this season for the first time in his 10-year career, and has already thrown 9 2-3 more innings than he threw all of last season.
This will be Looper’s first career start against the Diamondbacks, after 26 career relief appearances against them. He is 1-2 with 10 saves in 11 opportunities and a 2.42 ERA lifetime against Arizona.