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Injuries, fatigue and tougher schedule loom over St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals 21-7 start is unparalleled in franchise history.

The club has been taking care of business, dominating play at home and against National League Central Division foes.

But it will be interesting to see if the Redbirds can keep up their hot streak as injuries and fatigue mount.

The home team’s 9-2 recently-completed home stand came with a high cost: Reliever Jordan Walden was lost to a torn muscle in his pitching shoulder that could keep him out for 2 1/2 months. The bullpen was toasted to a crisp by three consecutive extra inning games followed by three games in which starters failed to pitch deep enough into their assignments. Fill ins for injured ace Adam Wainwright haven’t had much success, either.

The Cardinals got a break when John Lackey pitched into the eighth inning Thursday. But they’ll need a couple more of those long and strong starts to get the bullpen back in order without an off day until Monday.

Although the Cardinals have had something to say about their records, they’ve played a lot of games in the National League Central Division where their foes are right at or below the .500 mark.

While the Chicago Cubs (14-13) fancy themselves as contenders, the Cardinals will have to take on some, ahem, more established teams in the coming days.

The Birds will have to go to Pittsburgh to face a Pirates team likely to be highly motivated by being swept in St. Louis a few days earlier.

The Pirates are better than their 13-15 record. So one would assume that at some point they’ll make a stand.

The Bucs are 7-6 at home compared to 6-9 on the road. But after a 12-10 April, they’ve lost five of six games so far in May.

After that the Cardinals play Cleveland (10-17) on the road, then host Detroit at home (18-11) followed by series in New York against the Mets (18-10) and in Kansas City against the Royals.