July 20: Dodgers (54-45) @ Cardinals (54-44)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20140720_154609029.jpgNow would be a good time to take a snapshot of the National League standings, which feature the Cardinals (alone) in first place in the Central and show them tied with the Giants for the league’s best winning percentage. To keep both distinctions, the Cardinals will have to complete a sweep over the Dodgers tonight — no easy task given that they’ll be opposed by Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw had his scoreless innings streak snapped at 41 in his final start of the first half. Tonight, he’s seeking win No. 12, which would also be his ninth straight.

With the lefty Kershaw on the mound, manager Mike Matheny added right-handed hitters Peter Bourjos and Mark Ellis to the lineup. Tough assignment for both to be asked to produce against the best when neither has head much playing time as of late.

Carlos Martinez gets the start for the Cardinals in a setting that will test how he handles his emotions. He’s facing a big-time pitcher on a big-time stage (ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball). Martinez was too antsy his last time out, when he had a chance to pitch the Cardinals into sole possession of first place in the NL Central. The Cardinals need him to better handle the moment tonight.

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