The Cardinals can do no worse than hold their own on a seven-game trip to visit division rivals in Milwaukee and Chicago.
Their 8-3 victory Friday assured that the Cardinals will head to the All-Star Break in first place. But if the can manage to take two of the next three, that would be a major blow as they try to make a statement while the first half of the season winds down.
The Redbirds certainly weren't flawless. Chris Carpenter battled, but he wasn't dominant. There were baserunning gaffes and missed scoring opportunities. But the Cardinals did enough to win while the Cubs just looked terrible.
Alfonso Soriano screwed up a ball in the outfield to allow Albert Pujols to put his first triple in two years in the record books. Starter Rich Harden was mediocre, pitching five innings and allowing four earned runs. But Aaron Heilmann was terrible, giving up four earned runs in an inning on two hits and three walks.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Albert Pujols hit his 32nd homer to go along with his three-bagger. But I'm giving this one to Ryan Ludwick who seems to have found his swing again. He was 3-for-3 with four RBIs and bumped his batting average just over the .250 mark.
Lowlight: Rick Ankiel's swing is a complete mess. He is in a free fall and it would be nice if he could go down to the minors to get his head together. But he's out of options because of his pitching problems. So all the Cardinals can do is keep sending him out there and hope for the best.