July 9: Pirates (47-43) @ Cardinals (49-42)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20140709_153657007.jpgWith walk-off wins in the first two games of the series, the Cardinals have pulled to within three games of first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central. It’s the closest the Cardinals have been to the Brewers in May. The club can further shrink (possibly erase?) that division lead in the five days leading up to the All-Star break. Two more games remain against the Pirates before a big weekend series in Milwaukee.

If you want to dream big…. imagine the Cardinals heading into the All-Star break atop the division. It’s still a possibility.

Lance Lynn goes tonight and is looking for his 10th win of the season. If he gets it, he would be the first Cardinals pitcher since Bob Gibson (1968-70) to win 10 games before the All-Star break in three consecutive seasons.

Allen Craig returns to the lineup but drops down to the seventh spot, the lowest he’s batted all season. Oscar Taveras, following his two-hit game on Tuesday, is manager Mike Matheny’s No. 2 hitter du jour.

Matheny doesn’t announce any unavailable relievers pregame, but it seems highly likely that Pat Neshek is hands off tonight after pitching in four of the last five games. How far the Cardinals can push Trevor Rosenthal is also a question, as he needed 27 pitches to cover the ninth on Tuesday.

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