St. Louis, which has been within shouting distance for much of the second half, rode a spectacular late-season run to the National League's Wild Card spot last season. That run ended with a World Series championship.
The Cardinals were 15-13 last August, winning five of their first seven games in that month to spark their hot streak. In keeping with the August form that has seen St. Louis build the Majors' top winning percentage in that month since 2000 (.585) the Cardinals are 7-5 heading into Tuesday's series opener with the D-backs. Despite a tough 11-inning loss to the Phillies on Sunday, they're just 2 1/2 games behind the division-rival Pirates and the NL East's Braves for the second NL Wild Card slot.
The D-backs are also hanging around, within striking distance of the division-leading Giants, at five games back after this weekend and 6 1/2 games out of the second NL Wild Card spot. With San Francisco playing the Nationals and the Pirates facing the Dodgers, the D-backs seem in a good position to get some help in the standings this week -- help they'd like to take advantage of with a good series against the Cardinals.
Reliable veteran Ian Kennedy will get the ball in the series opener, looking to bounce back from a four-inning, five-run showing against the Pirates in his last outing. That performance snapped a string of four straight quality starts for Kennedy, who has struggled in his career against the Cardinals to the tune of a 1-2 record and 10.13 ERA.
Rookie Joe Kelly will take the hill Tuesday, fighting to save his spot in the rotation. Jaime Garcia's imminent return from the disabled list has the pressure on Kelly as he tries to shake the memory of his last outing in which he allowed a career-worst seven runs (four earned) against the Giants in what ultimately was a 15-0 St. Louis loss.
Cardinals: Beltran, Holliday driving 'em in
Cardinals outfielders Carlos Beltran and Matt Holiday are the NL's top two RBI leaders with 83 and 79, respectively. Beltran had an RBI on Sunday. Holliday's 135 hits are fourth in the NL.
D-Backs: Elmore recalled as Bloomquist heads to DL
Infielder Willie Bloomquist was placed on the 15-day DL Saturday with a strained lower back after missing six consecutive games with the injury last week after returning for two games in Pittsburgh late in the week. He was scheduled to play Thursday, but was scratched with lingering pain.
That forced Arizona to make a move, promoting infielder Jake Elmore from Triple-A Reno to fill Bloomquist's spot. Elmore, an alum of Arizona State University, was a 34th round D-backs' Draft pick in 2008, and hit .344 with 32 stolen bases and 73 RBIs in 108 Triple-A games this year. He'll be the second hometown Sun Devil to play for the D-backs when he makes his debut. The first? None other than Bloomquist.
Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter was 4-for-6 with three RBIs in St. Louis's 11-inning loss to the Phillies on Sunday. He's hitting .312 in 78 games this season.
D-Backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is hitting .370 (20-for-54) over his last 13 games. He has four doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs in that span.