For the St. Louis Cardinals, opportunity is defined as a 10-game stretch against three teams with a combined record of 66-114.
After taking two of three in Cincinnati over the weekend, St. Louis (41-22) will conclude a nine-game road swing with three against the New York Mets (23-35) and three against the Miami Marlins (18-44).
Then the Cardinals return to Busch Stadium for a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs (25-35). Overall, 30 of St. Louis' next 36 games are against teams with sub-.500 records, a stretch that take the Cardinals through July 25.
St. Louis extended its lead over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to four games Sunday night when it scored seven 10th-inning runs to win 11-4. Matt Holliday's grand slam against J.J. Hoover put the finishing touches on a rally that already had the Cardinals in control.
Red-hot David Freese and Matt Carpenter both extended their hitting streaks.
Third baseman Freese cracked a single against Hoover in the 10th inning and is batting .375 (27-for-72) during his 19-game streak. Second baseman Carpenter had two singles and three RBIs, and he's batting .418 (33-for-79) during his 18-game surge.
Rookie right-hander Michael Wacha (0-0, 5.40 ERA) will oppose Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner (1-5, 4.36) at 6:10 p.m. Tuesday.
Wacha has made two starts --one good and one bad. He was effective in his debut May 30 when he held the Kansas City Royals to one run (earned) on two hits in seven innings. But Arizona rocked him for six runs (earned) on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings last Tuesday.
Shelby Miller (7-3, 1.91 ERA) will pitch against New York's Dillon Gee (4-6, 5.20 ERA) in another battle of right-handers at 6:10 p.m. Wednesday. Miller has allowed three runs or fewer in all 12 of his starts this season and all 13 in his career.
The series in the Big Apple concludes at 12:10 p.m. Thursday when Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (9-3, 2.34 ERA) works against the Mets' top pitcher, Matt Harvey (5-0, 2.10 ERA).
Wainwright has issued just one walk for every 13 strikeouts this season (seven walks, 91 strikeouts in 96 innings) and has allowed two home runs --fewer than any other pitcher in baseball who has made at least 11 starts.
New York on Sunday designated for assignment outfielder Rick Ankiel, the former Cardinal. Ankiel was batting .182 with two homers and seven RBIs in 20 games with the Mets.
Overall this season, Ankiel is batting .188 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 45 games, including 25 with the Houston Astros.
The 33-year-old Ankiel, who had 25 homers and 71 RBIs with the Cardinals in 2008, has been unable to make contact this season. In 136 at-bats, he struck out 60 times and had a .235 on-base percentage.
After the series vs. the Mets, the Cardinals will fly south for their first look this season at the Marlins. Game times are 6:10 p.m. Friday, 3:10 p.m. Saturday and 12:10 p.m. Sunday.
The Cardinals are tied for 11th in the National League with 54 home runs and are 14th with 18 stolen bases, yet they're tied for first in runs scored with 317. Only Colorado has scored as many.
St. Louis leads the NL in batting (.276) and ranks first in all of baseball in average with runners in scoring position (.341). The Rockies rank second in the NL in batting with runners in scoring position at .278 --63 points lower than St. Louis.
American League teams Tampa Bay (.307), Detroit (.292), Baltimore (.283), Kansas City (.282) and Boston (.280) also trail the Cardinals by a wide margin in average with runners in scoring position.