St. Louis (55-41) at Los Angeles (47-51)

Clear Currently: Los Angeles, CA, US
Temp: 71° F
  • Game info: 4:10 pm EDT Sun Jul 23, 2006
  • TV: KPLR, KCAL
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds are playing their best baseball of the season. Not so coincidentally, so are the St. Louis Cardinals.

On Sunday, they look to complete a season sweep of the slumping Dodgers as the teams meet at Dodger Stadium.

Edmonds and Pujols each homered in Saturday’s 6-1 win over the Dodgers (47-51). The Cardinals (55-41) have homered in 18 consecutive games, tying the franchise record set in April 2000.

Pujols, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player, extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his two-run, third-inning homer that gave St. Louis a 3-1 lead. He has a league-leading 32 homers—along with 85 RBIs—despite missing 15 games in June because of a strained oblique muscle in his right side.

Edmonds also has played well this month. He has homered in four of his last five games and is batting .295 (18-for-61) in July with eight homers and 18 RBIs.

While his overall .262 batting average is the lowest it’s been since 2003, the center fielder said he’s seen a big improvement since he began working with the Cardinals video coordinator Chad Blair in an attempt to regain the form that helped him average 36 homers and 109 RBIs in 2000-01.

“Chad’s been here as long as I have and he knows my swing as well as I do,” Edmonds said. “And as soon as I turned on the tape it gave me a good idea of how I was swinging the bat, what I did right and what I wanted to do. … I still haven’t cured everything.”

The Cardinals, who have not swept a three-game series at Los Angeles since April 13-15, 1993, have outscored the Dodgers 29-7 in winning all six games between the team this season. St. Louis has won eight in a row and 17 of the last 21 over Los Angeles since an 8-5 loss July 18, 2003.

On Sunday, St. Louis will hand the ball to Jason Marquis (11-7, 5.97 ERA), who lost his most recent start Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves. The right-hander took one for the team Tuesday, getting tagged for 12 runs and 14 hits in five innings of a 14-5 defeat.

While Marquis shares the NL lead for wins with Tom Glavine and Brandon Webb, he also has the highest ERA among eligible NL pitchers and has had difficulty pitching deep into games.

“It’s his game to hold them down and give us a chance to win,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “He has a responsibility to pitch deeper into the game. After that, I don’t know what the problem is other than you get so far behind and it gets embarrassing”

Marquis is 1-1 with a 2.73 ERA in six appearances against the Dodgers. He had a solid start against them July 13, allowing two runs in eight innings while striking out four in the 3-2 win.

The Dodgers will counter with Chad Billingsley (1-2, 3.66), who is coming off his first major league win last Tuesday. The 21-year-old rookie right-hander pitched a season-high seven scoreless innings, scattering six hits while striking out four in a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“It was just me battling myself and giving the hitters too much credit,” Billingsley said of the difference between that win and his previous starts. “Today I just went out there and trusted my stuff and got ahead of the hitters, and just put guys away.”

Billingsley has a 12-inning scoreless streak entering this game and threw five shutout innings July 13 against Marquis and the Cardinals, giving up six hits but not receiving a decision.

Los Angeles has lost nine of 10 games since the All-Star break.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Marquis CIN vs. C. Billingsley PHI
14-16 Record 7-4
6.02 ERA 3.80
96 K 59
75 BB 58
1.52 WHIP 1.67