The Cardinals will try to avoid losing more ground in the division chase when they face the surging Marlins in the opener of a four-game set Thursday night.
St. Louis (58-53) led the Central as recently as last week but has dropped five of eight to fall 3 1/2 games back of Milwaukee.
The Cardinals blew a chance to get closer this week, losing two of three to the Brewers in an emotional series capped by Wednesday’s 10-5 defeat. The rivals were embroiled in a bean-ball exchange the previous day with stars Albert Pujols(notes) and Ryan Braun(notes) getting hit, while Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had words with heckling Milwaukee fans.
St. Louis hosts the Brewers for a three-game set that begins Tuesday.
First, the Cardinals need to remain focused on the Marlins (55-55), who are looking to move above .500 for the first time since June 11. Florida has won eight of 10, averaging 6.3 runs in those victories while batting .295 with 16 homers.
St. Louis’ starting pitching is coming off a bad run through the rotation, giving up 31 runs in 28 innings over five games.
That stretch began with Kyle Lohse(notes) (9-7, 3.33 ERA) falling behind 5-0 in the first inning against the Cubs on Saturday, but he lasted five innings and got a win as the Cardinals rallied for a 13-5 victory.
It was the fourth time in five outings that Lohse, who hasn’t won back-to-back starts since May, has given up at least five runs. He also allowed five in his first start versus Florida this year but did not get a decision after going six innings in a 6-5 loss May 2.
Lohse is 1-2 with a 6.56 ERA in his last four starts against the Marlins and has lost his past two in Miami, allowing 11 runs in 11 innings.
It’s unclear if Pujols’ left wrist is still an issue. He went 0 for 5 with two strikeouts Wednesday after getting hit near where he broke the wrist earlier this season. He went 1 for 14 in the Milwaukee series after getting eight hits - six for extra bases - in his previous four games.
“He’ll never admit to anything. It is what it is,” La Russa told the team’s official website. “I’m sure he’s sore. No excuses.”
The Cardinals and Marlins split four games in St. Louis from May 2-5.
Florida manager Jack McKeon doesn’t feel his team has lost any momentum after the conclusion of a three-game set with New York was postponed due to rain Wednesday. Florida took the first two of that series.
“I don’t think it messes up things too bad,” McKeon said. “It just gives the pitchers an extra day, which is good. That doesn’t hurt us there.”
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA in three starts following a stint on the disabled list with a sprained shoulder.
Hensley, used as a reliever for the majority of his six-year career, cruised through six shutout innings before allowing three runs and getting pulled after the seventh of a 5-0 loss at Atlanta on Friday.
He’s 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA in seven games versus the Cardinals, winning his only start against them with San Diego on May 26, 2006.