Needing a split to reach 50 wins at Busch Stadium for the first time in five years, St. Louis begins a four-game set against Colorado on Thursday night.
After winning the NL Central last season, St. Louis (82-76) was eliminated from postseason contention Tuesday when Cincinnati clinched the division title.
Ten days after a 13-2 surge pulled them within one game of the West lead, Colorado (83-75) also had its postseason hopes dashed Tuesday when it fell 9-7 to Los Angeles.
The Rockies, who have dropped nine of 10, are looking to bounce back from their first losing homestand since manager Jim Tracy took over in May 2009.
“We’ve been playing an awful lot of catch-up baseball over the last 10 days, and that’s not a very good formula for success as our record would indicate,” Tracy said after Colorado capped off a 1-5 stretch at Coors Field on Wednesday with a 7-6 loss to the Dodgers.
Trying to fight through arm fatigue, the right-hander is 0-1 with a 7.65 ERA in his last four starts. He yielded four runs and eight hits over five innings of Saturday’s 10-9, 10-inning victory over San Francisco.
Trying to avoid losing a fifth straight start is something Chris Carpenter(notes) (15-9, 3.31) hasn’t had to deal with since 2001, but that’s exactly where the 35-year-old right-hander finds himself heading into his last outing of the year. The 2005 NL Cy Young winner is 0-4 with a 7.17 ERA in his last four outings.
“My stuff is good,” Carpenter said after walking four and allowing five runs - two earned - in four innings of Saturday’s 7-3 loss at the Chicago Cubs. “… Something’s going on, I’m just not getting outs.”
The last time Carpenter dropped five consecutive starts was July 17-Aug. 8, 2001, while with Toronto.
After winning the first three career decisions of his career against the Rockies, Carpenter was tagged for four runs and nine hits in six innings of a 4-2 loss in Denver on July 8.
Though this series does not feature a playoff team, it does have three legitimate MVP candidates in Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki(notes) and Carlos Gonzalez(notes) and the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols(notes).
Coming off his second four-hit game of the season, Tulowitzki needs two homers Thursday to tie Babe Ruth and Albert Belle for a major league-record 17 in September. Tulowitzki is also four shy of passing Ruth for most RBIs this month with 44.
Gonzalez, the league’s leading hitter at .338, is tied with Pujols with an NL-best 117 RBIs.
Pujols, who has a league-high 42 homers, is batting .350 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 29 career home games against Colorado.
The Rockies have won 11 of 12 against the Cardinals, including a four-game sweep June 5-8, 2009, in their last visit to Busch Stadium.