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09/19/10 6:10 PM EST

Carpenter leads Cards into makeup tilt in Miami

On Aug. 8, the original date for Monday's Cardinals-Marlins matchup, both teams were playing with much different outlooks than is the case more than a month later.

At that point, both the Cards and Marlins had playoff aspirations, although Florida hasn't been in serious contention in some time. Although it's a story of what might have been, both clubs find themselves with something to play for in mid-September.

As the calender progressed, the Cardinals are clinging to faint division hopes (they sit six back of the Reds in the National League Central), but brilliantly played the role of spoiler in their weekend series against the Padres, winning three of four.

Regardless of their finish, the Cards have to be happy that Chris Carpenter will be able to make his regularly scheduled start on Monday. Carpenter, who goes for his 16th win, left his past start against the Cubs after experiencing cramping in his hamstrings while backing up a play to third.

"That's what was kind of weird," Carpenter said. "I was fine the whole game. Just, I don't know, when I was trying to get up after I fell, my legs were cramping."

The Marlins know a thing or two about injuries to their starting pitchers. Florida's rotation has been depleted by injuries in recent weeks to Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco. Factor in Chris Volstad's six-game suspension, and the result has been some inexperienced starters and a heavy load for the bullpen.

Volstad's break came at an inopportune time for his club, but the rest likely did him good. Now that Volstad has completed his suspension, the right-hander hopes to help take some of the burden off the bullpen.

"It's in the back of your mind," he said. "But you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself. You still have to go out and pitch your game, either way. It's tough sometimes because people put in your head that you've got to do more. If you pitch your normal game, you should be alright.

Cardinals: Callups aplenty in St. Louis
After the Cardinals called up five more players on Sunday, the bench has gotten a little crowded. And while the 35 players is a bit more than manager Tony La Russa usually prefers, the veteran skipper admitted the extra options give him a nice flexibility in the day-to-day lineup combinations.

"Everybody has a role," La Russa said. "Joe [Mather] can protect us in a lot of different places. It allows you to use Randy Winn -- you don't have to save an outfielder, because you have extra outfielders now. Randy's one of our better pinch-hitters. [Daniel] Descalso, we'll see what he looks like. He may get a start."

Marlins: Runs coming at a premium
Carpenter will try to take advantage of a Marlins club that has struggled at the plate recently. With a very young lineup, the Marlins have especially been having trouble scoring with runners in scoring position, going .163 (8-for-49) through the past six games.

With Hanley Ramirez out of the lineup with left elbow inflammation, the Marlins have to lean harder on their young core, namely Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez. Morrison has now reached base in 38 straight games, extending a Marlins rookie record. Manager Edwin Rodriguez, though, is putting the onus on all of his players to make things happen with runners on.

"I want them to be a little more aggressive out there, make contact, especially with runners in scoring position," Rodriguez said. "We have to get that situational hitting better. With men on third and nobody out, we've got to get better."

Worth noting
Ramirez, who missed the entire series against Chicago, is still day-to-day. ... Matt Holliday leads the NL with 48 two-out RBIs. ... Co-aces Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are closing in on become the first Cardinals' pitching teammates to register more than 220 innings each in a season since 1996, when Andy Benes and Todd Stottlemyre completed the feat. so in 1996.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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