The Cardinals headed for Milwaukee after Sunday night's game here, embarking tonight on a stretch of 12 games out the next 35 with their chief rivals for the National League Central Division title. Carrying the schedule through the next 41 games, the Cardinals will play the Brewers 12 times and third-place Pittsburgh 10 in that time.
"It seems we're either in Pittsburgh or Milwaukee or playing Pittsburgh or Milwaukee for the next two months," said Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who will start the first Milwaukee game tonight. "It's going to be a great stretch."
Carpenter, signing off on all the recent Cardinals moves and anticipating that the offense can stay healthy, said it was time for the starting pitching corps to do its part.
"We need to go on a run where two or three times through the rotation, everybody pitches well. Let's get this going a little bit," said Carpenter.
"I'm not talking about absolute domination but just give our team a chance every night, whether it's four runs or no runs. We don't have to be great with the offense we have. If we are great, it's a bonus. But we can't have those blowout games where we're not giving them the chance and not putting too much stress on the bullpen.
"Hopefully, we can put that run together. Our offense is going to score. We're going to win if we pitch and catch the ball and we need to do that more consistently. If we do that, we'll get that run going.
"Instead of winning one or two, losing two, winning three, losing two ... hopefully we'll put together that stretch where we win six, seven, eight in a row and then maybe another six, seven, eight in a row. We haven't done that yet."
BERKMAN IN LINEUP
Right fielder Lance Berkman, sidelined since Tuesday with a sore right shoulder, was back in the lineup Sunday. But manager Tony La Russa, noting new shortstop Rafael Furcal's travel schedule from Los Angeles, kept him out of the lineup, as well as hot-hitting infielder Ryan Theriot, who had been six for his last seven with four doubles in the previous two days.
Theriot's sore right shoulder isn't quite up to playing shortstop yet, so rookie Daniel Descalso appeared there Sunday. As for second base, La Russa couldn't ignore Skip Schumaker's .419 average (18 for 43) against Chicago starter Ryan Dempster. Furcal, who was six for 38 against Dempster, is likely to start tonight in Milwaukee.
La Russa said he would keep an eye on Berkman. "He may need a day for his legs," said La Russa. "We're just going to monitor everybody."
NOT GOING GREENE
Tyler Greene could read the tea leaves when discussion heated up about the Cardinals acquiring Furcal. "It wasn't looking too good," said Greene, who, indeed, was optioned back to Class AAA Memphis before Sunday's game.
"It's a little awkward," said La Russa. "But if (Greene) stays here, he's not going to play much and that's not good for him or us. He was terrific about that.
"He's the odd man out, for all the right reasons for him. The big leagues are the big leagues but if you're going to be in the big leagues and not play, you lose in the long term because you're not developing your skills."
And La Russa added, "He's got plus skills. Everything about him is above average."
Greene, having been sent down by the Cardinals several times now, in theory could be playing for the other 29 teams, too. But he said, "You always are. No matter where you're playing, there's always other people watching.
"But I'll just go down, play hard, try to improve and wait for the next opportunity, whether that be with the Cardinals, or another organization, however it works out." Greene is hitting .328 at Memphis.
When he last left for Memphis on June 18, Greene had the Cardinals' stolen base lead. He still had the lead when he returned, briefly, in Friday.
"I gave these guys five weeks to catch up," Greene had joked.
AROUND THE BASES
Righthander Octavio Dotel earned a night off Sunday after working three days in succession. "I never thought that when he showed up that he'd pitch three days in a row," said La Russa. "But he was so efficient." ... Righthander Mitchell Boggs, who got an injection to relieve lower back discomfort, probably will be able to pitch tonight. ... Infielder-outfielder Allen Craig, on a rehabiliation assignment at Memphis as he tries to rebound from a fractured kneecap, may not join the club until the next home stand begins Aug. 9. "He's got to play enough to get his timing and he also has to be sure he has two (sound) legs," La Russa said. ... Righthander Eduardo Sanchez, who has rotator cuff problems in his right shoulder, has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room make for Furcal on the 40-man roster. Sanchez may not pitch the rest of the season but would be eligible to come off the DL on Aug. 13.