The Inside Pitch with Ray Mileur

A look at the St. Louis Cardinals.

   The Cardinals will embark on their longest trip of the season Monday -- a two-week excursion -- and all four stops will have either record-setting or postseason implications.
   When they get to Pittsburgh for a four-game series, manager Tony La Russa will be two wins away from tying and three away from passing Sparky Anderson for third place on the managerial career victory list. Anderson is at 2,194, and if the Cardinals continue playing as they have against the Pirates, La Russa is likely to get to third in this series.
   The Cardinals have beaten the Pirates seven times in nine meetings, including winning both games in Pittsburgh this year and seven of 10 last year at PNC Park.
   The other three stops will take the Cardinals to Washington for their first regular-season visit and then to Florida and Houston, other wild-card hopefuls.
   If the Cardinals do well against Washington and Florida, they might inadvertently assist Houston to its second wild-card berth in two seasons.
   If Houston or the Chicago Cubs earns the wild card from the National League Central, then the Cardinals likely would play the San Diego Padres, the favorites to win the Western Division championship, in the first round of the postseason.

   --The Cardinals pulled off one of their best comebacks of the season, rallying for five runs in the ninth inning to pull out what should have been a loss to San Francisco Friday and RHP Chris Carpenter's nine-game winning streak is intact.
   After C Yadier Molina, in his second game back following a six-week stay on the disabled list, smacked a three-run homer off tiring San Francisco closer Tyler Walker, CF Jim Edmonds won the game with a two-run, two-out double against LHP Jason Christiansen.
   Christiansen had faced Edmonds just once before, striking him out. This time he tried to throw a low-and-away fastball but got it up too much and Edmonds is a deadly high-ball hitter. Edmonds, who smacked a drive that hit the right-field wall and then bounded past RF Michael Tucker, picked up 1B Albert Pujols, who had popped up with runners at first and third and one out.
   This marked the third time the Cardinals had fought back to win after trailing by four or more runs.
   And it meant that Carpenter, who allowed solo homers to SS Omar Vizquel and Ray Durham, remained at 17-4. The Cardinals have won all 12 of his last 12 starts.
   --While RHP Jason Marquis' batting average keeps going up, so does his loss total.
   Marquis went two for 2-for-3 his average to .373 but he also lost for the sixth straight time and ninth time in his last 10 decisions as he dropped to 9-12 for the season. Marquis, pitching relatively well, was down only 3-2 entering the eighth and had induced four of the Cardinals' five double plays they turned on ground balls.
   But as he got to his total of 118 pitches, Marquis weakened in what became a five-run Arizona eighth. Cardinals relievers, little used of late, had trouble stemming the tide as they allowed four inherited runners to score _ two each by RHP Julian Tavarez and LHP Ray King.
   Tavarez, who hadn't pitched in six days, had allowed just three of his first 26 inherited runners to score.
   The Cardinals have lost 11 of Marquis' last 12 starts. His six-game losing streak is the longest by a Cardinals hurler since Andy Benes dropped six in a row in 2000.
   --LHP Mark Mulder raised his nighttime record to 13-1 this year with the 10th shutout of his career Wednesday against Arizona. Mulder blanked the Diamondbacks on one hit in his only other start against them four years ago.
   By day, Mulder is 1-5 with a 7.57 ERA but he won't have another day start until a week from Saturday in Washington, D.C.
   Mulder also had his second two-hit game of the season.
   RF John Mabry, who has feasted on Arizona pitching this season, got a rare start Thursday and doubled and scored before whacking a two-run homer. Those two extra-base hits gave him six straight hits against Arizona starter Brandon Webb before Mabry was retired on a groundout in the sixth inning.
   But, for the season, Mabry is 9-for-13 (.692) against Arizona and he is hitting .362 (17 for 47) with three homers in his last 13 starts.
   The Cardinals' victory put them at 76-44 on the season, slightly better than the Chicago White Sox (74-44) for MLB's top record.
   --LF So Taguchi's career-high 11-game hitting streak advanced to 12 as Taguchi saved it with a ninth-inning single. Taguchi is on a 20-for-42 stretch.
   --RF Larry Walker, out four weeks with a herniated disk in his neck, enjoyed a good batting practice Friday and was activated Saturday. C Mike Mahoney was sent down to Triple-A Memphis.  
   --Cardinals hitters were 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position Friday, including 4-for-5 in the ninth.   
   --C Yadier Molina, healed from a broken bone in his left hand, returned to the lineup Thursday for the first time since July 7 and went nothing for three although he was robbed on what may or may not have been a catch of his line drive by CF Shawn Green. He then hit an important three-run homer in the ninth inning Friday that started the Cardinals' comeback from a 4-0 deficit.
   --The Cardinals broke their all-time mark for tickets sold when they passed the 3.45 million mark last week. They sold 3.43 million in 1989.
   BY THE NUMBERS: 66 -- The major league-leading number of wins by Cardinals starting pitchers.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "If I can't lift my arm and pull my shirt down, I can't play baseball." -- Injured 3B Scott Rolen, who will have season-ending shoulder surgery.

   1. LHP Mark Mulder
   2. RHP Chris Carpenter
   3. RHP Jason Marquis
   4. RHP Jeff Suppan
   5. RHP Matt Morris

   RHP Jason Isringhausen (closer)
   LHP Ray King
   RHP Julian Tavarez
   RHP Al Reyes
   RHP Brad Thompson
   RHP Cal Eldred
   LHP Randy Flores

   1. SS David Eckstein
   2. 3B Abraham Nunez
   3. 1B Albert Pujols
   4. CF Jim Edmonds
   5. 2B Mark Grudzielanek
   6. RF So Taguchi
   7. LF John Rodriguez
   8. C Yadier Molina

   C Einar Diaz
   C Mike Mahoney
   INF Hector Luna
   3B Scott Seabol
   INF/OF John Mabry
   RF Larry Walker, neck, is back in the lineup - don't expect him to play every day
   3B Scott Rolen, inflamed rotator cuff, 15-day DL.  Rolen is out for the season.
   LF Reggie Sanders, hairline fracture in left tibia, 15-day DL.  Projecting him to return by Mid September.

  2B Mark Grudzielanek is out with a knee injury and will miss the series in Pittsburgh - He is not expected to go on the DL

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