The St. Louis Cardinals hold a slim lead for the second NL wild-card spot and are set to begin a crucial seven-game West Coast trip.
Given their recent struggles on the road - and those of starter Jaime Garcia - the trip may have come at a challenging time.
Losers of five of six away from home, the Cardinals open a three-game series with the San Diego Padres on Monday night.
St. Louis avoided a sweep and ended a three-game skid with a 5-4, 10-inning win over Milwaukee on Sunday, blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning before Matt Carpenter scored on Allen Craig 's single.
Carlos Beltran ended an 0-for-14 slump and earned his first extra-base hit in 50 at-bats with his 29th home run in the first - one of his two hits on the day."It was good for me to go out there and get a couple hits," Beltran said. "Lately, it's been a battle at the plate."
There's a battle in the standings as well, as the Cardinals (75-65) hold a 1 1/2-game lead over Los Angeles for the league's second wild-card berth.
St. Louis, which heads to Chavez Ravine for a critical four-game series beginning Thursday, swept the Padres from May 21-23 at Busch Stadium. San Diego, though, is 22-14 since the start of August, so St. Louis isn't going to look past this series.
"(That) would be extremely unwise for us to do that," manager Mike Matheny told the team's official website. "The guys have obviously been watching and understand that (San Diego) is playing well right now. Never make that mistake."
The Cardinals have struggled away from home lately, much like Garcia (4-6, 4.16 ERA) for most of the season. The left-hander has gone 1-4 with a 7.76 ERA in his last five road starts - two of which have come since he returned from the 60-day disabled list."You don't ignore trends. Statistics are what they are, it's data," Matheny said.
Garcia won his first start in four tries since coming off the DL after allowing an unearned run in 7 1-3 innings of a 5-1 victory over New York on Tuesday.
Garcia has pitched well versus the Padres no matter the venue, going 1-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts. He allowed three hits in six scoreless innings of a 2-1 loss in his only start in San Diego on May 26, 2010.
He'll be tasked with slowing down Chase Headley , who hit a seventh-inning grand slam in San Diego's 8-2 victory over Arizona on Sunday. Headley has an NL-leading 102 RBIs, the most for a Padre since Adrian Gonzalez drove in 119 runs in 2008.
Carlos Quentin followed Headley's slam with a homer for the team's first back-to-back shots this season."That's the great thing about our lineup right now is (teams) can't just sit there and pitch around me because we have other guys who are swinging the bat so well," Headley said.
Headley is hitting .394 with five homers and 19 RBIs over his last seven for the Padres (66-75), who have won four of five and will send Eric Stults to the mound Monday.
Stults (5-2, 2.35) allowed one run in six innings of San Diego's 6-3, 11-inning victory in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The left-hander, who has never faced the Cardinals, is 4-0 with a 1.66 ERA in six starts since rejoining the rotation Aug. 6.
The Padres have won six of the last seven meetings with the Cardinals, who may not have David Freese in the lineup again after he missed Sunday's game with a mild left ankle sprain.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|September 09, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Swollen left ankle|
|September 09, 2012||Matt Carpenter||Day-to-Day||Cut hand|
|September 09, 2012||Jake Westbrook||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|August 31, 2012||Rafael Furcal||15-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|August 30, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Left game - right elbow strain|
|August 28, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained upper back|
|San Diego Padres|
|August 23, 2012||Jason Marquis||15-Day DL||Fractured left wrist|
|August 17, 2012||Nick Hundley||Day-to-Day||Bruised right knee|
|August 16, 2012||Nick Hundley||60-Day DL||Bruised right knee|
|August 11, 2012||Huston Street||15-Day DL||Strained left calf|
|July 31, 2012||Yasmani Grandal||15-Day DL||Strained oblique|
|July 31, 2012||Yasmani Grandal||15-Day DL||Strained oblique|
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Things got so easy for the San Diego Padres on Monday night they spent the last few innings trying to make history.
Cameron Maybin hit a two-run homer, Will Venable had three RBIs and the Padres handed the struggling St. Louis Cardinals an 11-3 loss.
The Padres had 17 hits and scored more than one run in five different innings. They scored five runs in their last two at-bats to break open the game and give both Logan Forsythe and Maybin the opportunity to become the first player in franchise history to hit for the cycle.
Forsythe struck out in each of his last two at-bats, including in the eighth inning when he took such mighty cuts he nearly lifted himself off the ground - and fell a home run short of the cycle.
"I got away from my approach and tried too hard to make something happen," Forsythe said. "I kind of had to try because it hadn't been done before."
San Diego and Miami are the only teams in the majors who have not had a player hit for the cycle. The Padres are also the only team to have not thrown a no-hitter.
The Padres were aware of it on the bench and were pulling for Forsythe and Maybin, who needed a double in his last at-bat in the eighth for the cycle. Maybin walked.
When someone told Forsythe he didn't get cheated on his swings in the eighth, he said, "No, but it cost me. I learned from it. I won't be doing that again. I tried once and that was good enough."
The loss dropped the Cardinals 9 1-2 games behind first-place Cincinnati in the NL Central. The Reds beat Pittsburgh 4-3 in 14 innings. St. Louis, which has lost four of five, had its lead cut to one game over the idle Los Angeles Dodgers for the second NL wild-card berth.
"Ugly," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny . "We got a lead, quickly lost it, then couldn't get it stopped. We just had a rough time getting people out."
Maybin connected for his seventh homer off Jaime Garcia (4-7) that broke a 2-all tie in the fourth inning. Maybin scored three runs.
Chris Denorfia tied his career high with four hits and also had two RBIs. Forsythe added three hits to tie his career high as San Diego matched its season best for runs.
"I liked the fact we had Garcia on the ropes in the first, even though he wiggled out of it," San Diego manager Bud Black said about the Padres loading the bases but not scoring.
"We kept putting the pressure on him and we had a lot of big, two-out hits," he added.
The loss started a crucial seven-game West Coast trip for the Cardinals, who begin a four-game set on Thursday night against the Dodgers.
Eric Stults (6-2) allowed three runs on five hits with five strikeouts and a walk in 5 1-3 innings. Stults is 5-0 in seven starts since rejoining the starting rotation on August 6.
Garcia got pulled after only three innings, giving up four runs on seven hits. The lefty struck out four, walked three and had two wild pitches.
"A bad one," Garcia said. "I didn't get the job done. I was just getting the ball up. They've got a good lineup."
San Diego has won 14 of 18 overall and 18 of 24 at home.
The Cardinals had cut the lead to 6-3 when they loaded the bases with one out in the seventh inning. But Dale Thayer , who came in and gave up a single to Carlos Beltran to load the bases, got Matt Holliday to ground into a double play.
Rookie Pete Kozma put the Cardinals ahead on a two-run triple with two outs in the second. Kozma finished with three hits.
NOTES: Garcia is 1-5 with an 8.32 ERA in his last six road starts. ... Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn will start Thursday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers . Lynn replaced RHP Jake Westbrook , who sustained a right oblique injury on Saturday. Matheny said the injury is not severe and said it looks as if Westbrook will pitch again this season. ... Padres closer Huston Street , on the DL since Aug. 11 (strained left calf) threw a simulated game. Black said the club will make a decision later in the week when Street will return. ... St. Louis 1B-OF Lance Berkman will have season-ending surgery on Tuesday on his ailing right knee. Berkman has just two homers and seven RBIs in 80 at-bats. .. Cardinals RHP Chris Carpenter threw around 70 pitches in a simulated game on Monday, keeping alive the hope he might pitch this season. Carpenter, 37, has not pitched because of a nerve condition in his right shoulder. ... St. Louis RHP Adam Wainwright (13-12, 4.04 ERA) faces San Diego RHP Edinson Volquez (9-10, 4.27) on Tuesday night.