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Series Preview: Cardinals @ Royals

Fresh off an undefeated four-game homestand in which they swept the Phillies and Astros in short series, the Cardinals head across the state of Missouri to their home away from home to play the Royals.

Despite some excitement caused by a new crop of Kansas City prospects, the Royals stadium is typically at least halfway filled with red clad Cardinals rooters during the annual interleague match-up between the 1985 World Series opponents.

And, of course, it's home to Albert Pujols. The St. Louis superstar grew up in Kansas City where he's always put up good numbers. He's got a .383 lifetime batting average with 13 homers at Kaufmann Stadium.

Pujols will likely be without much of his supporting cast in Kansas City. Of course third baseman David Freese was already out of the lineup because of a broken bone suffered when he was hit by a pitch a couple of weeks ago. Lance Berkman has been added to the list of unavailable players because he sprained his wrist Wednesday while making a diving catch in the outfield. Matt Holliday was hurt in the same game when he pulled a quad while running down a ball in the outfield. But the slugging left fielder said he thinks he will be able to play this weekend, possibly as soon as Friday night.

While the Cardinals have reheated after a misfire in Cincinnati to retake first place in the National League Central Division with a 26-19 record, the Royals have slipped after a hot start. They Royals are 21-22 and have slipped to third in the American League Central after dropping seven of their last 10 games. The Redbirds are 12-10 on the road while Kansas City plays much better at home than on the road with a 16-10 mark.

Pitching Match-ups:

The opening game might have seemed like a match-up between aces. But Cardinals top starter Chris Carpenter (1-3, 4.95) has struggled with his control at times and when he pitches well the offense doesn't seem to offer much support. Former Rockies starter Jeff Francis (0-5, 4.83) still doesn't have a win. But they lefty has pitched better in May than he did in late April when a pair of bad starts screwed up his stats. Francis has been a handful for the Redbirds in the past. He's got a 4-1 lifetime record against St. Louis with a 3.48 ERA and 42 hits allowed in 54 1/3 innings. Carp is 5-5 with a 3.86 ERA against Kansas City that dates back to his previous life as a Blue Jay.

Resurgent St. Louis Starter Jake Westbrook (3-3, 6.07) will take on Nate Adcock (1-0, 2.16) in the middle game. Westbrook has been pretty good in four of his last five starts, the only clunker being a rain interrupted game against the Cubs. Westbrook is 6-3 with a 2.59 ERA against Kansas City, a familiar foe when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians. Adcock is a reliever who is expected to make his first start of the season Saturday. He's only pitched as many a three innings twice this year. And both of those games happened in April.

Undefeated Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia (5-0, 1.64) will take on Sean O'Sullivan (2-3, 4.65) in the finale on Sunday. Garcia has won his last three starts in a row, efficiently pitching an average of eight innings over that span. While he's struck out eight or more three times this season, Garcia hasn't walked more than two in an outing. In his last start, O'Sullivan gave up six runs on eight hits during a six inning start against the Indians and took the loss.