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Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Marlins

The Cardinals will face a tough test in a four-game series against the Marlins. And they'll have to do it shorthanded as they add third baseman David Freese to their disabled list.

The Marlins are 17-9 and a half game out of first place behind the Phillies in the National League East. They bring a 7-4 road record to Busch Stadium. Meanwhile, the Cards are 16-12 and at the front of the pack in the National League Central. They're 6-6 at home so far in 2011.

The Florida offense is made up of a lot of interchangeable parts. Only four Marlins players have as many as 90 at bats. But they have a lot of role players who can get the job done when it's they're turn to make a mark.

Logan Morrison shuttles between left field and first base. He's hitting .327 with four homers in 55 at bats. Emilio Bonifacio moves between second and third base and is batting .319 with one homer in 69 at bats. Florida's star, shortstop Henley Ramirez is off to a terrible start with a .200 batting mark and only one homer in 90 at bats.

The Cardinals are led by Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman who are first and second in the National League in hitting. Holliday is hitting a ridiculous .418 with 18 RBIs. He's only got three homers so far, but he's got six doubles and is sporting a .521 on base percentage. Berkman is hitting .398 with eight homers and 23 batted in. He's got a .456 on base percentage. Friese was batting .356 when he was knocked out of action Sunday with a pitch that hit him on the hand and broke a bone. Albert Pujols continues to scuffle with a .245 batting average although he has eight homers and 19 RBIs.

The real strength of the Marlins is the real strength of the Cardinals -- the starting rotation.

Pitching matchups:

In the opener, Chris Volstad (2-1, 5.32) will take on Kyle Lohse (4-1, 1.64). Volstad is 2-1 with a 4.12 ERA in his career against St. Louis. He was pounded for five earned runs in his previous two starts before turning in a nice seven inning performance his most recent start against the Dodgers. He allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five. Lohse held the Astros to four hits and no runs over seven innings in his last start.

Anibal Sanchez

(1-1, 3.86) will start game two for the Fish against

Kyle McClellan

(4-0, 3.23). Sanchez has split two starts against the Cardinals with a 1.93 in 14 innings. McClellan had his worst start of the season his last time out against the Astros, giving up five earned runs. But the Birds won the game anyway.

Game three will feature a match-up between Javier Vazquez (2-2, 6.39) and St. Louis hard luck starter Chris Carpenter (0-2, 3.89.)

The final will feature Cy Young Award candidate Josh Johnson (3-0, 0.88) against Jake Westbrook (2-2, 6.53) It's a mismatch on paper. But Westbrook has pitched his best two games in his last two starts.