The St. Louis Cardinals are cruising to their sixth NL Central title in 10 years. Their success this year has been spurred by consistently winning series after taking the opener.
The Cardinals look to do that again Tuesday night when they face the struggling Milwaukee Brewers in the middle game of this series at Miller Park.
St. Louis (82-57) beat the Brewers 3-0 on Sunday, as ace Chris Carpenter(notes) threw a one-hitter and struck out 10 as the Cardinals took the seventh of nine meetings this season. It was also the 15th consecutive time they won a series opener, and they’ve taken 13 of those series while splitting another.
They haven’t dropped a series since losing consecutive games to Philadelphia from July 25-26 after taking the opener of that set a day earlier.
St. Louis is 29-9 since, and has built an 11 1/2-game cushion on second-place Chicago for the largest advantage of any division leader.
“It’s a sign of consistency,” manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s a sign of getting ready to play. It’s also a sign that we’ve got a lot to play with. But mentally we’ve been on it. We’ve been pushing every game, every series. It’s been fun to watch these guys do it.”
Albert Pujols(notes) continues to be a force for the Cardinals, hitting .485 with three homers and 12 RBIs over the last nine games after collecting three hits with two doubles and two RBIs on Monday.
The eight-time All-Star first baseman has a .328 average and leads the majors with 44 homers, a .445 on-base percentage and .678 slugging percentage while his 120 RBIs are three shy of Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder(notes) for the top spot.
The veteran right-hander was reached for four runs with six strikeouts in six innings against Milwaukee. That came after he yielded one run and fanned 15 in 11 innings over his first two starts with the Cardinals, who signed him Aug. 19 following his release from Boston.
Smoltz is 0-1 with a 4.67 ERA in his last three starts against Milwaukee.
“We didn’t present a threat, for the most part,” manager Ken Macha said following Monday’s defeat.
Macha will give the ball to Manny Parra(notes) (10-10, 6.46), who is looking to set a career high in wins after earning his second consecutive victory opposite Smoltz on Thursday, yielding two runs in 6 1-3 innings. The left-hander won his previous trip to the mound on Aug. 28 despite allowing six runs in six innings of an 8-6 win over Pittsburgh.
Parra is 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts against St. Louis this season.