Albert Pujols and the surging St. Louis Cardinals will try to take over sole possession of first place in the NL Central for the first time in more than a month as they face the Philadelphia Phillies in opener of a three-game series at Veterans Stadium.
St. Louis has won five of its last six games to move into a tie with Houston atop the Central. The Cardinals beat the Pirates 4-3 on Thursday as outfielder Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to 28 games—tops in the majors this season.
Pujols’ streak is the longest by a Cardinal since Ken Boyer’s 29-game streak in 1959. Pujols is hitting .378 (42-for-111) during the run with seven homers, 22 RBIs and 26 runs.
St. Louis hasn’t been in first place since July 9.
“I’ve said from Day One we had a good pitching staff and I still believe that,” Cardinals pitcher Garrett Stephenson said. “We’ve got a good team behind us … I think we’re real close to it (getting on a roll).”
While St. Louis has its eyes set on the NL Central crown, the Philadelphia Phillies are in a battle for the wild card.
Philadelphia took two of three from Milwaukee, including Thursday’s 4-3 win, to take a half-game lead over Florida in the wild-card race.
The Phillies will turn to Vicente Padilla in the opener as he looks to extend his six-start unbeaten streak. Padilla is unbeaten since July 5, although he was roughed up in his last start on Saturday, allowing nine hits and five runs against the Giants.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 1st place (tied), NL Central. Phillies - 2nd place, 11 1/2 GB, NL East.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Woody Williams (14-5, 3.44 ERA). Williams has pitched well lately, but is winless in his last three starts. The right-hander hasn’t given up more than three runs in those starts. He is 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA in his career against Philadelphia.
PHILLIES PROBABLE STARTER: Padilla (10-8, 3.74 ERA). Padilla has walked seven batters over his last two starts. He is 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA in six games against St. Louis.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Pujols, .369 avg., 34 HRs, 108 RBIs and 106 runs; Edgar Renteria, 25 SBs. Phillies - Mike Lieberthal, .316 avg.; Jim Thome, 30 HRs, 88 RBIs and 77 runs; Jimmy Rollins, 16 SBs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: Phillies, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - The longest hitting streak in Cardinals history is Rogers Hornsby’s 33-game run in 1922. … OF Pujols, who had homered in five straight games before not hitting one on Thursday, is 2-for-6 (.333) against Padilla. … Eleven of the Cardinals’ 12 hits on Thursday were singles. Phillies - SS Rollins snapped a 1-for-18 slump with a single in the second inning for the Phillies. … C Lieberthal is 7-for-10 with a homer in his career against Williams. … RHP Mike Williams recorded his first save with the Phillies since being traded from Pittsburgh.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 30-32 on the road; Phillies - 36-26 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - C Joe Girardi (back), 15-day DL; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; 2B Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Morris (hand), 15-day DL; LHP Lance Painter (calf), 15-day DL; RHP Russ Springer (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (foot), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Phillies - 3B David Bell (back), 15-day DL; RHP David Coggin (shoulder), 15-day DL.