The NL Central was starting to look like the St. Louis Cardinals' division after they won six of seven last week against their two pursuing opponents.
Three straight losses heading into their final 15 games have re-established a level of uncertainty, but history suggests this visit from the Colorado Rockies might send the club back in the right direction.The Cardinals begin a three-game series against Colorado on Friday night with ace Adam Wainwright on the mound.St. Louis begins a nine-game homestand with a five-game winning streak at Busch Stadium, and extending it would set a season best.Being anywhere but Cincinnati would probably suit the Cardinals (80-67) after they dropped the last three of a four-game set. They managing three hits and six baserunners as their scoreless innings streak reached 17 in Thursday's 1-0 loss."We're heading home," center fielder John Jay said. "We just have to keep playing."The Cardinals have won 19 of 27 against the Rockies and haven't dropped a home series to them since 2009, going 11-3 in St. Louis over the last five seasons.Having Matt Holliday in the lineup during that time has certainly helped. The left fielder has batted .391 against his former team since joining St. Louis from Oakland midway through 2009.Wainwright (17-9, 2.62 ERA) has also had the Rockies' number.The right-hander can match Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto, who the Cardinals lost to on Thursday, for the big league lead in wins. In seven starts and four relief outings against Colorado, Wainwright has gone 6-1 with a 1.50 ERA, including victories in four straight starts.Wainwright has won back-to-back starts and threw his fourth complete game of the season the last time out, surrendering one run in a 9-1 win at Milwaukee on Sunday.That completed a 6-1 stretch against Pittsburgh and the Brewers, and manager Mike Matheny now needs Wainwright to play stopper."We wanted a big-game pitcher in there, and he's our guy," Matheny told MLB's official website.Jorge De La Rosa stands in the Cardinals' way as they try to avoid matching a season-worst losing streak.The left-hander allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings of Saturday's 7-6 home win over San Diego. He didn't get the decision, which is something he'd likely settle for on the road.De La Rosa (13-10, 4.27) has dropped his last four starts away from home with a 5.32 ERA.Nine starts against the Cardinals have resulted in a 5-2 record and 4.56 ERA with Yadier Molina (5 for 11 with a home run) and Holliday (6 for 14) enjoying the most success in the matchup. Jhonny Peralta is 3 for 19 with eight strikeouts.Molina was out of the lineup Thursday after Wednesday's night game, and his struggles with his surgically repaired right thumb have been evident with a 5-for-30 mark over his last nine games."You can see the splint," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's still protecting it and doing things to strengthen it."Colorado (59-87) has dropped three straight to begin a six-game road trip, and its offensive struggles have surpassed even the Cardinals'.Wednesday's 2-0 loss to the New York Mets was the second straight shutout the Rockies suffered and extended their scoreless streak to 19 innings."Not a lot of margin for error, especially when we struggle to score runs," manager Walt Weiss said. "We pitched very well this series. ... You score two runs in three games and you're not going to win."Rockies starters have posted a 1.85 ERA in the last six games.
Matt Holliday's first-inning home run Friday night had an observed speed off bat of 115.8 miles per hour and landed in Big Mac Land at Busch Stadium. It is the second-hardest hit ball into Big Mac Land since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006. The only home run faster was on April 11, 2009 off the bat of Albert Pujols. It was a grand slam that traveled at 119.6 miles per hour.