In the last 10 days, catcher A.J. Pierzynski and pitcher John Lackey have been cast into the heat of a pennant race.
Neither is complaining.
In separate transactions, Pierzynski and Lackey moved from the Boston Red Sox, residing in last place in the American League East, to the St. Louis Cardinals, who are one game behind first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central.
Already, they have paid dividends. Pierzynski drove in the tying run in the Cardinals' 3-2 victory over the Brewers on Sunday, the same day Lackey won his debut start with the Cardinals as he worked seven strong innings.
A clubhouse that was reserved and dispassionate has received a shot of attitude from the fiery Pierzynski, signed as a free agent July 26, and Lackey, acquired for right fielder/first baseman Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly.
"I'm just happy to be able to play and contribute on some kind of level," said Pierzynski, 37. "It doesn't matter what the situation is, but it's just nice to be in a pennant race and have the opportunity to contribute --and go back to having fun again.
"It wasn't very fun (in Boston). Baseball had become sort of a job. But since I've come here, it's really become fun and I'm grateful for the opportunity."
Pierzynski, batting .273 (6-for-22) with two RBIs, is buying time for the Cardinals as they wait for All-Star catcher Yadier Molina to recover from the torn ligament in his right thumb. The earliest Molina is expected to return to the lineup is the last week of August or the first week of September.
Pierzynski will reacquaint himself with his former Red Sox teammates as Boston (49-62) visits the Cardinals (59-51) for a three-game series Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
It's a rematch of the 2013 World Series won by the Red Sox 4-2. Lackey ousted the Cardinals with a Game 6 win at Fenway Park.
Lance Lynn (11-8, 2.98 ERA) will pitch the series opener at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday against Rubby De La Rosa (3-4, 3.64 ERA). Lynn has dropped his last two starts, but the Cardinals have provided him with a combined one run in those outings.
Lynn, who is 4-3 with a 2.59 ERA in his last seven starts, never has faced the Red Sox in the regular season. He made one start and one relief appearance against Boston in the World Series last year.
De La Rosa, like Lynn, has lost his last two decisions. Both losses were against Toronto when the Red Sox scored just two runs.
At 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, Shelby Miller (8-8, 4.14 ERA) will pitch against close friend Kelly (2-2, 4.37 ERA with the Cardinals). Miller and Kelly were in each other's weddings last November.
In the finale at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Adam Wainwright (13-6, 2.26 ERA) will pitch against Brandon Workman (1-4, 4.08 ERA). Wainwright matched a season-high with seven earned runs allowed Friday in a 7-4 loss to Milwaukee.
It will be Wainwright's first regular-season start against Boston.
Craig has played one game with the Red Sox and is 1-for-4 with a double. He missed the final two games of Boston's series with the New York Yankees after he injured his left ankle Friday running across first base.
When healthy, Craig will play left field. His status is day-to-day, but the Red Sox are hopeful he can play Tuesday.
"It will be funny seeing them in a Red Sox uniform," Miller said of Kelly and Craig. "It will be different seeing them over there. It'll be fun to watch (Kelly) pitch, but hopefully we'll win. It's mixed emotions."
Pierzynski joked that he might not recognize the Red Sox, considering they also traded pitchers Jon Lester, Andrew Miller and Felix Doubront, outfielder Jonny Gomes and shortstop Stephen Drew in deadline deals Thursday.
"It was a crazy day, for sure, especially over in Boston," Lackey said. "A bunch of us were leaving town."
Lackey was stunned how the Red Sox's season fell apart.
"It was kind of crazy how quick they went the other direction," he said. "Hopefully, things work out for some of the guys over there, some of my boys. Honestly, I'm just moving forward and excited to be here."
A second World Series ring is what Pierzynski has in mind. He won one in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox.
"Absolutely," he said. "I'm not chasing the Hall of Fame or anything. I'm not chasing any numbers or anything like that. I don't believe in that kind of stuff. Like we talked about when I first came here, there were other opportunities, but this seemed like a place where I could play and have a chance to win.
"I talked to (Lackey) when he first came here and that was the first thing he said: 'Let's go chase a ring.' That's why you all play. Especially when you're a little older, that's the main thing.
"It's going to be fun down the stretch. There's 50-some games left. It's going to be fun to see how it plays out. We have a bunch of games in the division coming up, so we have to play well and it will all work itself out."