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Series Preview - Cardinals @ Dodgers

Two hot teams will square off beginning tonight as the Cardinals travel to play the Dodgers.

Both Los Angeles and St. Louis are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have identical 33-24 records. That's good enough for a tie for first in the NL Central for the Cardinals. The Dodgers are half a game behind the streaking Padres in second place in the NL West.

The Dodgers won in extra innings over the red-hot Braves Sunday to split a four-game set with Atlanta. The Cardinals lost in extra frames Sunday night to narrowly miss sweeping the slumping Brewers. The Birds may be without two of their most productive players in Los Angeles. Starting third baseman David Freese twisted his ankle over the weekend and is expected to be unable to start until Friday. Colby Rasmus is day-to-day, according to the Cardinals, after being taken out of the Sunday game with tightness in his calf.

Pitching matchups:

With no explanation, the Cardinals have replaced P.J. Walters in the rotation with bullpenner Blake Hawksworth(0-2, 5.14). He'll face Dodgers righty Carlos Monasterios(2-0, 1.87). Hawksworth has struggled in the bullpen this season after a stellar stretch their in 2009. The Monday night start will be his first in the majors. Monasterios has had trouble with blisters lately, which cut his last start short to five innings. He, too, is primarily a reliever, so the Birds may be well served to try to make him throw a lot of pitches so they can wear him down.

Chris Carpenter(7-1, 2.76) will start the second game for the Birds against a Dodgers pitcher who has not yet been names. Carpenter continues to struggle with his control, but he's making it work as he keeps racking up the wins and strikeouts. He has already given up more homers than he did all last season, but he doesn't issue many walks and has give up only 69 hits in 81 2/3 innings. So usually the homers have been of the solo variety.

In the finale, Adam Wainwright(8-3, 2.05) will also face a yet unidentified pitcher. Wainwright is coming off what may be the best start of his career, his first complete game shutout. Wainwright is allowing a stellar .943 baserunners per inning pitched so far this season.