Despite their recent struggles, the Los Angeles Dodgers still have the best record in the NL. Thanks to Chris Carpenter(notes) and a favorable schedule over the last 10 days, the St. Louis Cardinals are making a run at it.
Carpenter looks to win his eighth straight decision and remain undefeated against the Dodgers as the Cardinals go for their ninth win in 10 games Monday night in the opener of a three-game series between division leaders.
Los Angeles (70-48) leads the NL with a .593 winning percentage, though that mark has taken a hit during the Dodgers’ 8-13 stretch since July 26.
St. Louis (67-52) has capitalized on Los Angeles’ inconsistency, going 14-4 since July 27 to take a five-game lead in the NL Central. The Cardinals have played especially well lately, taking eight of nine in series against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and San Diego - teams with three of the four worst records in the league.
Yadier Molina(notes) plated the tying run with a single in the ninth inning against the Padres on Sunday, and Colby Rasmus(notes) finished the rally with a walk-off two-run homer as the Cardinals completed the sweep with a 7-5 victory.
The sudden finish followed two rain delays totaling 2 hours and 19 minutes. The game had been in jeopardy earlier in the day due to an overnight power shortage, but power was restored about three hours before game time.
“It doesn’t get much better than that, especially with the long day,” said Rasmus, the first St. Louis rookie to hit two game-winning homers since Bill Virdon in 1955. “Glad to be a part of it.”
The Cardinals haven’t needed many late comebacks with Carpenter (12-3, 2.27 ERA) on the mound. The right-hander is 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA in eight starts since the beginning of July. He held Cincinnati to two runs while matching a season high with 10 strikeouts in seven innings to win his fourth straight start, 5-2 on Wednesday.
After that game, he credited a new workout routine for his prolonged success and his ability to stay healthy.
“We’ve done a few things the last few weeks, just playing around with exercises,” said Carpenter, who pitched in five total games over the last two seasons. “The whole thing that happened last year, we’re trying to find a way to continue to keep everything strong.”
Though he gave up six runs in five innings in his only previous start at Dodger Stadium in 2004, Carpenter is 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA in five career starts against Los Angeles, all St. Louis wins.
The Dodgers hope to have more success against Carpenter after delivering a strong offensive performance in a 9-3 win at Arizona on Sunday. They had 14 hits after batting .229 while losing six of their previous eight.
Charlie Haeger(notes) will make his season debut on the mound for Los Angeles. The right-hander, who had a 16.62 ERA in four relief appearances with San Diego in 2008, has gone 11-6 with a 3.55 ERA in 22 starts with Triple-A Albuquerque this season.
Haeger has never faced the Cardinals, who won three of four at home against the Dodgers in the clubs’ first series from July 27-30, 2009.