Rays up next: Cardinals

What's new: After a surprising early run (including a 12-4 start), the Cards have lost seven of nine but still are 24-19. They feature superstar first baseman Albert Pujols, failed pitcher turned slugging centerfielder Rick Ankiel, third baseman Troy Glaus (a favorite of Rays manager Joe Maddon) and another of the catching Molinas, Yadier. They're among the NL's best in pitching (even though Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder are on the disabled list), hitting and fielding, though the bullpen has been shaky recently and they lead the majors in runners left on base. Plus, they bat their pitcher eighth.

Key stat: More impressive than his current 14-game hitting streak, Pujols has reached base in all 42 of his games this season.

Connections: Cards manager Tony La Russa (one win shy of 2,400) is a Tampa native and legend, hitting coach Hal McRae a former Rays manager, reliever Jason Isringhausen a Tarpon Springs resident. … Rays first-base coach George Hendrick was a Cards star in the 1980s, and relievers Troy Percival and Al Reyes pitched there.

Series history: The Cards swept a 2005 series at the Trop. The Rays have never been to St. Louis.

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

Rays up next: Cardinals 05/15/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2008 7:25am]

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