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Series preview: Cardinals @ Dodgers

The Cardinals will try to keep their hot bats hitting as the head back to California tonight to take on the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles.

That still sounds like a silly statement, based on the Birds' terrible offensive showing the first week and a half of the season. But, since Matt Holliday returned from the disabled list for the finale against San Francisco, the Cardinals have been the run scoringest team in the National League, piling 15 tallies on the Diamondbacks Wednesday to win their first series of the season.

Albert Pujols, who couldn't buy a hit a week ago, has collected five in his last two games -- and he sat out the late innings of the Wednesday night drubbing. But that's nothing compared to the hot streak that Lance Berkman is one. He homered four times againt the Diamondbacks and drove in 10 runs in the three-game set.

The Dodgers will be without Rafael Furcal who broke his wrist a few days ago on a stolen base attempt. Initially, Furcal said he might retire because of the setback. Since then cooler heads have prevailed. But it's safe to say he won't be back against the Birds.

Matt Kemp leads LA's offense with a .425 batting average a homer and six batted in. Matt Kemp is next with a .370 average, one homer and seven knocked in.

Losers of three of their last four, the Dodgers are 6-6 overall. The Cardinals are 5-7 after their series against Arizona:

Second year lefty Jaime Garcia, 1-0 with an 0.60 ERA will take on Hiroki Kuroda, 2-0, 1.72 in the series opener. Garcia is 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA against the Dodgers in two career appearances, one of them a start. Garcia was rolling in his last start, a win over the Giants in which he allowed one run over six innings. But manager Tony La Russa pulled him after 82 pitches because Garcia pitched a complete game shut out in his previous start. Kuroda, 36, is 0-1 with a 1.42 ERA in three career appearances against the Cardinals.

In the second game Kyle Lohse, 1-0, 3.00, will take on veteran Jon Garland who is making his first appearance of the year. Lohse has struck out 10 and walked one in his two starts so far this season. He has allowed 11 hits in his 15 innings pitched. Garland strained an oblique muscle in spring training. He made a rehab start for the Dodgers Advanced Class A team and gave up six hits and three runs in 4 2/3 innings. He's 1-4 with a 5.02 ERA lifetime against St. Louis.

Kyle McClellan, 1-0, 2.25, will take on Dodgers lefty phenom Clayton Kershaw (2-1, 1.37) in the third game. McClellan beat the D-Backs with one run allowed on seven hits over six innings in his most recent start. He's been very steady since making the conversion from the bullpen to the rotation. Kershaw will be a handful for the Birds. He's one of the best strikeout artists in the game, striking out 24 and walking four in his three starts in 2011. In his career against St. Louis, Kershaw is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA.

St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter (0-2, 5.82) will face off against Chad Billingsley (1-1, 7.71) in the finale. Carpenter was great in his first two appearances but was bombed in his Arizona start, apparently unable to get a feel for his breaking pitches. Carpenter is 6-0 with a 1.77 ERA in eight career starts against LA. Billingsley is 1-3 with a 5.79 ERA in his career against the Cardinals.

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