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Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Dodgers

The Cardinals don't get to slip back into the season gradually after the All-Star break. They'll be taking on a tough Dodgers team that is in the thick of the National League West race.

Rafael Furcal has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the last month. He's batting .395 over that span with seven walks and five stolen bases in six tries. He's also cracked seven doubles, four homers and a triple.

I'd like to give some more details on the pitching matchups. But the official postings are vague and confusing. The Dodgers list Chad Billingsley as their probable starter in both games two and four of the four-game set. The Cardinals list "TBA" as their expected starter in games two, three and four. That's a little bit strange since Adam Wainwright's one inning in the All-Star game represents the total workload of the team's hurlers in the last four days. Why can't they post the starters when everyone in their starting five is operating on full rest?

We do know Chris Carpenter (9-3, 3.29) will take the hill for St. Louis in the opener against lefty Clayton Kershaw (9-4, 2.96). Carpenter had three pretty rough outings in a row to end the first half of the season. In those starts he was 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA. But the Cardinals claim they've worked out a flaw in Carp's mechanics and that they expect him to be better next time out of the barn. The team also insists that Carpenter isn't hurt... Kershaw gives the Cardinals fits. He's 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA against the Birds and has allowed only 21 hits in 31 1/3 innings against them, good for a .189 batting average against. Don't count Albert Pujols amongst those who struggle against Kershaw. He's a .571 career hitter against the southpaw. Matt Holliday hits .400 against him while Brendan Ryan hits .375.

Billingsley is 1-2 with a 4.40 lifetime ERA against the Cardinals. Hiroki Kuroda was terrible in his last three starts before the break. He was 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA. In his career, he is 0-0 with a 1.38 ERA against the Cardinals.