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AP - Sports

A pair of shutouts before the All-Star break gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a slim lead in the NL West.

The St. Louis Cardinals are looking to take control of the NL Central and will attempt to avoid another blanking against the Dodgers in Friday night's series opener in St. Louis.

Los Angeles (54-43) ended the first half with two 1-0 wins over San Diego and moved one game in front of San Francisco in the division. The Dodgers, winners in 22 of 34, were 9 1/2 games behind the Giants on June 7.

"We kind of knew that this would all turn around and that the people in this room were capable of it. So we never lost that confidence, and I think we did a good job of sticking together," catcher A.J. Ellis said.

The Dodgers will try to open the second half by recording three consecutive shutouts for the first time since July 7-9, 2011. They outscored the Cardinals 17-4 and blanked them twice while winning three of four matchups June 26-29 at Dodger Stadium.

The Cardinals haven't been shut out three times by the Dodgers in one season since 1990.

Los Angeles, though, will send out a scuffling Dan Haren (8-6, 4.23 ERA) for its first visit to St. Louis since a Game 6 loss in last year's NL championship series.

Haren is 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA in his two starts this month after going 3-0 with a 3.77 ERA in his prior five outings. The right-hander lasted a season-low four innings last Friday in a 6-3 loss to San Diego, giving up four runs, six hits and two walks.

Haren, who is facing the Cardinals for the first time this season, is 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA in six career starts against his former team.

St. Louis (52-44) is seeking a ninth win in 13 games, and attempting to move back into a tie for first in the division with Milwaukee.

The Cardinals had a share of first place Saturday after trailing by 6 1/2 games on July 1 but couldn't complete a three-game sweep of the Brewers the next day, falling 11-2.

"We're in a spot where we just need to keep playing good baseball," manager Mike Matheny told MLB's official website.

Kolten Wong was limited to a single in that game after homering five times in his first seven contests since returning from an ailing shoulder. The Cardinals could use some more production from their second baseman with All-Star catcher Yadier Molina expected to miss at least two months because of thumb surgery.

Lance Lynn (10-6, 3.14) will try to give his club a boost while earning his third win in as many starts this month. The right-hander has allowed two runs in 13 1-3 innings in those games - the latest a 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh on July 9 - after suffering a 9-1 loss to the Dodgers on June 28.

A blister on his middle finger limited Lynn to throwing his fastball against Los Angeles, and he was charged with seven runs, nine hits and two wild pitches in two innings.

Lynn was 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA in his prior four matchups, including a 4-2 win in Game 4 of the NLCS on Oct. 15.

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