After yet another near-sweep of a relatively weak team, the Seattle Mariners this time, the St. Louis Cardinals continue their quest for dominance in interleague play. 

St. Louis looks to recapture first place in the NL Central this weekend against the Oakland Athletics. 

The Cardinals haven’t enjoyed much success on their California trips this year. They went 1-2 against the San Francisco Giants, 1-2 against the San Diego Padres, and 0-4 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Now, the Cards look to defend home base as they host manager Tony La Russa’s former team. 

Unlike the Giants and Padres, the A’s have relatively average pitching. 

Ben Sheets, the Athletics’ 10-million-dollar man, is 2-6 with a 4.93 ERA. Rookie right-hander Vin Mazzaro is 2-1 with a 4.81 ERA. Right-hander Trevor Cahill has had the most success as a starter—he’s 6-2 with a 3.23 ERA.

On paper, sweeping the A’s does not seem to be an insurmountable task for the Cardinals. But as the first half of the season indicates, things don’t always go according to plan. 

To get the sweep, the Cardinals have to do more than just pitch well.

An adjusted batting order is a good start—La Russa switched Ryan Ludwick and Matt Holliday in the lineup, a move that proved successful in the team’s 9-3 victory over the Mariners Monday. 

Young fielders Colby Rasmus and David Freese have both been on hot streaks, which also helps. 

The two have hit a combined .462 this week. 

Overall, there are few predictions to be made before this series. The Cardinals are statistically better than the A’s, but the two ball clubs have not faced each other yet this year.

The Cards need to at least win the series against Oakland. The Cincinnati Reds currently hold a half-game lead in the NL Central going into their weekend series with the Mariners. 

Even one loss against the A’s could hurt St. Louis in the division race.

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