The Toronto Blue Jays are riding high after another sweep of one of the AL's other top teams and could have one of their hottest hitters back in the lineup for their return home.
Toronto (37-24) has won 19 of 23 and five in a row after a three-game sweep at AL Central-leading Detroit. Juan Francisco and Brett Lawrie sealed Thursday's 7-3 victory with back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning off Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
Melky Cabrera had his second homer in as many games and Jose Bautista extended his hit streak to 11 games. The Blue Jays also swept AL West leader Oakland and defending champ Boston during their last 23 games.
"We're feeling good right now," manager John Gibbons said. "We're confident, and we're playing good baseball. We're rolling."
Toronto will try for its 12th win in 15 home games and sixth in a row in interleague play Friday, and Encarnacion is hoping to return from an ailing back for that attempt.
The first baseman was forced to leave an 8-3 win Wednesday because of tightness.
"It's been better today," Encarnacion told the Blue Jays' website Thursday. "I'm taking today off, and we'll see how tomorrow goes."
Encarnacion is hitting .362 with 11 homers and 20 RBIs in his last 16 games. Bautista is batting .450 with 11 RBIs during his hit streak, and Adam Lind is hitting .406 with seven RBIs and 11 runs in his last nine contests.
That trio is a big reason the Blue Jays are hitting .299 with 28 homers in their past 16 games while averaging 6.0 runs. They've scored 7.0 per game with 15 home runs in seven interleague matchups.
Now they'll try to give Lance Lynn another difficult time. Lynn (6-3, 3.48 ERA) gave up a season-high seven runs - four earned - along with eight hits and four walks in 3 1-3 innings of Sunday's 8-0 loss to San Francisco.
The right-hander was 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his previous three outings and tossed a five-hit shutout against the New York Yankees on May 27.
"I just couldn't get a ground ball to go to somebody," Lynn told the team's website. "It's one of those days where that will happen."
Lynn is making his first start against the Blue Jays, who swept the most recent series between the teams June 24-26, 2011, in St. Louis.
While Toronto tops the majors with 87 home runs, St. Louis has hit an NL-low 32. Matt Holliday has hit one in his last 34 games and is in a 3-for-21 slump overall.
The Cardinals (31-30) have lost seven of nine, getting outscored 49-29. They blew a two-run lead to Kansas City for the second time in three games Thursday, losing 3-2.
Toronto right-hander Marcus Stroman (2-0, 7.30) will make his second major league start after winning his first with an impressive effort. He gave up one run over six innings and struck out six in a 12-2 victory over the Royals on Saturday.