A seven-game winning streak vaulted the St. Louis Cardinals into first place in the National League Central, but their grip on that lead is tenuous.
The Milwaukee Brewers are just a game behind after both teams won Wednesday, with a division chase that would appear to be going down to the wire.St. Louis will wrap up a three-game series with the last-place Colorado Rockies on Thursday afternoon. Colorado won the series opener 16-5 on Tuesday night, but the Cardinals bounced back to take the second game 9-5 on Wednesday night.
The deciding game of the series will pit the Rockies right-hander German Marquez (6-9, 5.18 ERA) against Cardinals right-hander Dakota Hudson (6-6, 4.20) on Thursday.
Hudson is 2-2 with a 3.14 ERA in five career appearances (two starts) against the Rockies. It will be his first appearance against Colorado since 2019.
St. Louis has been on the prowl since it stood just four games above .500 at 51-47 on July 26. The Cardinals have gone 10-2 in their past 12 games to leap over the Brewers and into first place in the division.
One of the reasons for the Cardinals' turnaround has been Nolan Arenado. The perennial Gold Glove third baseman has settled in nicely in the middle of the St. Louis lineup in his second season with the team. He played his first eight years with Colorado before being dealt to the Cardinals before the 2021 season.
Arenado has proven his offensive production wasn't due to hitter-friendly Coors Field after clubbing 34 home runs last year. He hit his 23rd of 2022 on Wednesday and had three hits in the victory over the Rockies. He is batting .304 this year with a .932 OPS that is third in the NL.
"I think it's a real disservice to the players who played here at Coors, and even to the players who are here now," Arenado said Wednesday of the assumption Rockies hitters can't be productive elsewhere. "If you are playing well, you can play well anywhere. That's always been my thought.
"At times, I guess, I wanted to prove people wrong. There is a sense of pride and wanting to prove people wrong."
Arenado will get another opportunity against his former teammate Marquez on Thursday. Marquez has pitched well in six career starts against the Cardinals. He is 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in six starts against St. Louis with three quality starts.
Marquez most likely won't have catcher Elias Diaz behind the plate in the series finale. Diaz left Wednesday's loss in the eighth inning because of a hand injury. He could be headed for a stint on the injured list.
"He'll be getting X-rays and MRIs," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "This has been bothersome off and on, but today he might have done a little bit more damage. We'll see how the scans come out."
If Diaz misses time, there figures to be more opportunities for Brian Serven, who made his major league debut against San Francisco on May 18. In his second game, three days later, he hit two home runs against the New York Mets and earned the backup job over Dom Nunez.
Serven hit .333 in June but slumped in July, managing just three hits in 37 at-bats (.081).
--Field Level Media