Even after a mediocre homestand, at least by their standards, the Los Angeles Dodgers can still feel quite safe about their division lead.
The St. Louis Cardinals, meanwhile, don’t have one anymore.
The Cardinals hope seven straight home games will help them regain the edge in the NL Central, and they’ll start by giving the ball to Chris Carpenter(notes) on Monday night against the best team in the majors.
Los Angeles (62-36) still holds an eight-game lead on second-place Colorado in the NL West after its 6-4 homestand, but the Dodgers’ bigger concern might be the health of Manny Ramirez(notes), who was held out of Sunday’s 8-6 loss to Florida with lingering soreness in his left hand.
Ramirez was hit by a pitch Tuesday against Cincinnati, and he has missed two starts in four games since, although he has been available to pinch hit.
“I think you can rip it and grip it for a time or two,” Ramirez told the Dodgers’ official Web site, “but over the course of catching the ball in the outfield … it’s going to ache on you.”
It’s no surprise, then, that St. Louis (53-48) dropped five of seven on its road trip, and surrendered first place in the Central to the rival Chicago Cubs after Sunday’s 9-2 loss to Philadelphia.
Matt Holliday(notes), acquired Friday from Oakland to protect Pujols in the order, is 7 for 11 (.636) with four doubles and three RBIs in three games with his new club. Fellow newcomer Julio Lugo(notes) was 8 for 14 against the Phillies, but Cardinals pitchers allowed 23 runs in the final two games of the series.
“We didn’t play as well as would have liked on this trip, but we’ll bounce back,” Mark DeRosa(notes) told the Cardinals’ official Web site. “You go through ups and downs. We’ll go home and start a new series and try and get back to the level we were playing at.”
Carpenter (8-3, 2.26 ERA) seems like a good candidate to stabilize St. Louis’ staff. The former Cy Young Award winner has successfully bounced back from several injuries and has been cruising lately, going 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA in four July starts.
He’s also 3-0 in four starts against Los Angeles, although he has faced them just once in the last three years.
“I felt like I could have been a little better, but for the most part, I felt like I pitched well,” Carpenter said.
Randy Wolf(notes) (5-4, 3.45) will start for the Dodgers, and the left-hander is also riding a strong recent run. He’s 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his last five starts, and he beat the Reds on Tuesday after allowing two runs and four hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 12-3 victory.
Wolf hasn’t won back-to-back starts all year, but four of his five victories have come on the road, where he has a 2.90 ERA in 10 outings.
This is the first meeting of the year between the teams after the Cardinals won four of six against Los Angeles last season. The Dodgers have lost 14 of their last 17 games in St. Louis at Busch Stadiums old and new.