The St. Louis Cardinals are likely even more excited to be returning to Missouri.
After losing the final six games of a lengthy road trip, the Cardinals seek their first victory in a week when they open the I-70 Series against the road-weary Royals on Friday night at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis (38-32) entered last weekend’s series in Milwaukee atop the NL Central, but after suffering three-game sweeps to the Brewers and Nationals, the Cardinals return home one game behind division-leading Milwaukee. St. Louis has been outscored 42-16 during the skid - its longest since dropping seven straight Sept. 10-17, 2008.
“You just try to turn the page and move on,” said Matt Holliday(notes), who hit his seventh homer in Thursday’s 7-4, 10-inning loss to the Nationals after missing the previous 13 games with a left quadriceps injury. “We need to go home and win some games.”
Albert Pujols(notes), who hit his 16th home run Thursday, went deep three times on the trip but batted only 250. He is batting .444 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in his last seven games in St. Louis.
The Cardinals, winners of nine of 12 at Busch, welcome a Kansas City team that’s a major league-worst 9-19 on the road.
Pujols is batting .380 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs in 48 career games against the Royals, and went 4 for 12 to help St. Louis take two of three in Kansas City last month.
Although the Royals (30-39), who lost to the Athletics 8-4 on Thursday, have had little success away from Kauffman Stadium, Francoeur is glad to be in St. Louis.
“Frankly I’m looking forward to getting off the West Coast,” said Francoeur, who went 2 for 20 with seven strikeouts in stops in Anaheim and Oakland. “I much prefer the Midwest.”
“If the kid struggled to hit or he wasn’t a run producer, it’s an easy choice,” manager Ned Yost told the Royals’ official website. “You go ahead and take the offense (with Butler) and defend for him later, but (Hosmer) is pretty good all the way around.”
Hosmer and his teammates will face Chris Carpenter (1-6, 4.47 ERA), who has lost his last four decisions and is off to his worst start since beginning his career 1-7 with Toronto in 1997.
“I’m fine,” Carpenter said after permitting five runs and five hits - including two homers - in six innings of Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Milwaukee. “I’ve been around too long to concern myself with what my record is and what I’m doing.”
Getting some offensive help would certainly help Carpenter, who has received nine total runs of support in six starts since beating the Chicago Cubs on May 10. The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner got no help from his offense in Kansas City on May 20, when gave up three runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-0 defeat.
Since being acquired from Colorado on May 26, Paulino has yielded three earned runs in 21 innings over four appearances, three of them starts. The right-hander was 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in 18 relief appearances against the NL with the Rockies.
Paulino allowed five runs - two earned - and seven hits in five innings of a 7-5 loss to the Angels on Saturday.