Cardinals Major League Notebook: 07/07/09

Manager Tony La Russa considers the state of the Cardinals while Albert Pujols considers the importance of the current road trip.

Inside Pitch
The Cardinals will begin their last 78 games with a one-game lead over Milwaukee in a division where all six teams are within 7 1/2 games of the lead and the top five are within 3 1/2.

"We've all messed around .500. That gives everybody a chance," said manager Tony La Russa.

The Cardinals will finish their pre-All Star Game schedule with seven games in Milwaukee and Chicago. "This road trip is going to test us like we haven't been tested all year long," said Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. "This is what baseball is all about. The best games are going to be in your division with your rivals. That's what's so beautiful about the game.

"You know those guys in Chicago aren't going to be struggling all year long. And Milwaukee and ourselves, we don't want to be struggling all year long."

La Russa, anticipating the return of Kyle Lohse this weekend, said, "If we get our five guys back (in the rotation), we have a chance, from that point of view. We need to hit better.

"We've had our offensive problems. We've had our injuries. But if this wasn't a really gritty team, we'd probably be at .500 or a couple of (games) under. That counts for a lot."

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