The St. Louis Cardinals continue to perform well in all aspects of the game heading into the middle of their three-game series Saturday against the host Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cardinals own the best record in baseball and seem to be getting stronger, winning 17 of their last 22 games. St. Louis, which beat Los Angeles 7-0 in Friday's series opener, has the lowest ERA in the majors (3.09), the fifth-highest batting average (.267) and third-fewest errors (17).
The Dodgers and Cardinals have each experienced injuries to their pitching staffs this season, but Los Angeles hasn’t responded nearly as well. The middle of its lineup has also underachieved as 2011 Triple Crown contender Matt Kemp is still sitting on two home runs. Andre Ethier also continues to look very average at the plate and the Dodgers' best hitter in April - first baseman Adrian Gonzalez - has seen his average dip from .333 at the end of April to .303.
TV: 7:15 p.m. ET, Fox
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals LH John Gast (2-0, 4.76 ERA) vs. Dodgers LH Ted Lilly (0-1, 5.63)
Gast is one of three rookies in the five-man rotation for the Cardinals. Last week, he became the first St. Louis left-hander since 1993 to start and win his major-league debut, a feat matched Wednesday by Tyler Lyons. He was just as solid in his second start Sunday, allowing two runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. Gast was drafted in the fifth round by the Texas Rangers a month after undergoing Tommy John surgery following his senior year of high school in 2007. He opted to play for Florida State, where he twice pitched in the College World Series, and was eventually taken by the Cardinals in the sixth round of the 2010 draft.
Lilly will get a chance to turn things around for the Dodgers when he makes his first appearance since April 29, a day before he went on the 15-day disabled list with a right rib cage strain. He takes the starting spot previously occupied by rookie right-hander Matt Magill, who was sent down to the minors after going winless in four starts with a 5.50 ERA. Lilly was limited to eight games last year after undergoing surgery to his throwing shoulder, which also caused the 37-year-old to miss the first three weeks this season. Lilly has pitched well against St. Louis in his career, however, owning a 7-3 record with a 2.66 ERA in 105 innings.
1. Cardinals C Yadier Molina is hitting .311 in his career against the Dodgers, but .176 against Lilly.
2. Dodgers C A.J. Ellis suffered a bruised right forearm during a collision at home plate with Jon Jay on Friday, but expects to play Saturday.
3. Kemp has one home run in April and one in May. Before this season, he had not been held to one home run or less during an injury-free month since May 2008.
PREDICTION: Cardinals 7, Dodgers 5