Cardinals set to open homestand against Diamondbacks


Following a less-than-stellar series against the Kansas City Royals, the first-place St. Louis Cardinals welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to Busch Stadium, kicking off a critical nine-game home stand.

St. Louis (28-16) carries a 3 1/2 game lead in the National League Central into the series against the Diamondbacks, who are coming off a series in which they took two-of-three from the Chicago Cubs in dramatic fashion. In the opener, the Cardinals will rely upon young right-hander Carlos Martinez, who will be countered by Chase Anderson.

Martinez (4-2, 4.08) has a 1.59 earned run average over the course of his last two games, and will be backed by the red-hot bat of second baseman Kolten Wong, who is batting .333 over the course of the last week – with 10 base hits.

Anderson, meanwhile, is coming off an eight-inning, one-run effort against the Miami Marlins his last time out. In eight starts this season, the right-hander has pitched into the seventh on three separate occasions, posting a 2.54 ERA in the process.

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Matt Holliday is back in the lineup on Monday after missing Sunday’s action, giving St. Louis a much-needed boost offensively. The Cardinals scored just two runs in the first two games of the series against Kansas City, before pushing half-a-dozen runs across in the series finale.

Jaime Garcia will get the ball on Tuesday in the second game of the series, making his second start of the season after showcasing effective secondary pitches in his last time out. Garcia (0-1, 2.57) will be opposed by Arizona right-hander and former top prospect Archie Bradley.

Consistency and health are the two biggest keys to Garcia’s season. After showing what he was capable of a few years’ back, he has stumbled and succumbed to injuries of-late, leading many to wonder what lies in the future for the left-hander.

Josh Collmenter will look to lead the Dbacks, who are currently one game under .500, in third-place in the National League West, trailing both the Dodgers and the Giants. The Arizona right-hander has a 5.19 ERA this year, taking a big step backwards in 2015.

With the Cubs taking on the Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals this week at Wrigley Field, the Cardinals and Mike Matheny have a valuable opportunity at-hand. If the Cubs fail to stay competitive against two first-place clubs, St. Louis must capitalize and have a strong home stand to put some distance between them and the rest of the field in the National League Central.

Next: Cardinals salvage finale behind Wacha