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Cardinals need to make their mark early in Pirates series

The St. Louis Cardinals have had their share of bad breaks this season.

But they created their own troubles Sunday, blowing a game against a bottom dweller with seven runs allowed in the ninth inning off closer Trevor Rosenthal. Now they’ll have to make a statement against the Pittsburgh Pirates if they’re finally going to grab the National League Central division crown.

If the Redbirds would have held on Sunday, they’d go to Pittsburgh with a four-game lead prior to a three-game series. The Bucs, even with a sweep, couldn’t catch up.

Winners of eight of their last nine games, the Pirates are going to be pumped for the confrontation. It would sure be nice if St. Louis could win the first game and defuse the tension. Otherwise, it may be tough to stop Pittsburgh’s momentum.

The Cardinals have Lance Lynn starting Monday against JA Happ. On Tuesday it’s Michael Wacha against Charlie Morton. If they can’t win one of those games, St. Louis will be forced to use a substitute for recently-injured starter Carlos Martinez. It will mostly likely be Tyler Lyons against Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.

Simply put, the Cardinals must win at least one of the first two games of the Pittsburgh series if they’re going to keep from opening a huge can of worms.

The Birds have been trying to ease returning sluggers Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk and Matt Adams back into the lineup. But those players are going to have to get up to more involved this week for a number of reasons.

First, St. Louis can use the additional offensive production. Second, the Cardinals need to know if these players are capable of playing every day before they decide on their post-season roster.

The Redbirds also have to be at full speed because they’ve lost six of their last 10 games against the Pirates.

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