After struggling mightily during a lengthy skid, St. Louis’ hitters have heated up in a big way to start this month.
Things might get a little trickier against the hottest team in baseball.
The Cardinals open a key four-game set Monday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who hope to have their top two hitters available as they look to extend the NL’s longest road winning streak in 56 years to 15.
St. Louis (65-45) batted .183 and scored 10 runs during a seven-game losing streak to end July but has changed its fortunes in August. The Cardinals have produced an incredible 44 runs and batted .340 while winning three of their last four games.
They went 10 of 18 with runners in scoring position Sunday in a 15-2 rout of Cincinnati, their most runs in a game since April 13, 2011. St. Louis had three homers among its 19 hits, and All-Star second baseman Matt Carpenter snapped an 0-for-23 slump with a two-run double in the fifth inning.
“Offensively, we did a terrific job,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We had a little bit of everything - some power, some good situational hitting.”
Matheny’s club will face a Dodgers team that’s won a franchise-record 14 consecutive road games and finished off a four-game series at Wrigley Field with a 23-inning scoreless streak with Sunday’s 1-0 victory. The streak is the NL’s longest since Cincinnati’s 15-game run in 1957, and is just three shy of matching a 97-year old league record.
The news wasn’t entirely good for Los Angeles (61-49) on Sunday. Hanley Ramirez was forced to leave in the seventh inning after jamming his right shoulder when he fell in the stands to catch a fly ball.
“I just jumped and landed on it,” said Ramirez, who was wearing a sling after the game. “I’m not feeling the back of my shoulder. It’s really sore and we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
Ramirez’s injury came one day after rookie Yasiel Puig hurt his thumb while making a diving catch in right field. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he expected Puig to return Monday, while Ramirez is slated to have an MRI.
Puig is batting .376 with 11 homers in 53 games and Ramirez is hitting .361 in 54 games this season.
The NL West leaders have won 31 of 38 but have dropped seven of 10 to the Cardinals, who trail Pittsburgh by 1 1/2 games in the NL Central. St. Louis took two of three in Los Angeles from May 24-26 in the clubs’ first meeting this season.
Adam Wainwright (13-6, 2.61 ERA) will try to help the Cardinals get this series off to a winning start while looking to become the NL’s first 14-game winner.
The right-hander has allowed four runs in four of his last six starts, including in a 5-4 loss in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. He was given a trio of two-run leads, but exited after seven innings with the score tied.
Wainwright is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his last three starts against the Dodgers, the most recent on Sept. 16.
Los Angeles pitchers have given up just 11 earned runs in their last nine games, a run Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.43) will try to continue after having his scheduled Sunday start pushed back a day. The right-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his last five starts.
He gave up two runs over seven innings and struck out seven before the Dodgers walked off with a 3-2 victory Tuesday against the Yankees.
Greinke is 6-1 with a 1.88 ERA in his last seven starts against the Cardinals, though he hasn’t faced them since April 2012 while with Milwaukee.
Greinke has given up one run in 13 innings over his last two outings away from Chavez Ravine after posting a 6.12 ERA in his first six road starts.