(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of division leaders square off for the first time this season on Friday night when the St. Louis Cardinals host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first of three straight meetings.
The Cardinals own the best record in baseball at 31-16, giving them a 5 1/2- game lead over the Chicago Cubs for first place in the NL Central. The Dodgers are 10 games over .500 at 28-18, but the NL West leaders are just a half-game ahead of the second place San Francisco Giants.
Los Angeles has won six of its past nine regular-season meetings with St. Louis, but the Cardinals have bested the Dodgers in the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons. They beat the Dodgers in the 2013 NL Championship Series before topping them in last year's NL Divisional Series.
The Cardinals rallied to sweep the Arizona Diamondbacks and push their winning streak to four straight with Wednesday's 4-3 victory. St. Louis scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Jason Heyward starting the frame with a solo homer.
St. Louis later loaded the bases before Jhonny Peralta hit a grounder to third against Arizona's five-man infield. The Diamondbacks got the force out at home, but catcher Jordan Pacheco's wild throw to first allowed the winning run to score.
"We needed someone to step up," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said on his team's website. "We talk about different characters trying to figure out how to get it done. We were about out of opportunities, and [Heyward] changed the complexity of that game."
Matt Holliday set a Cardinals franchise record by reaching safely in 43 straight games to start the season, passing Albert Pujols' 2008 mark. It's also an NL record and the longest such run in the majors since Derek Jeter set the big-league record with 53 in a row in 1999.
The Dodgers failed in their bid to sweep a three-game series, falling 3-2 to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday. Los Angeles reliever Chris Hatcher allowed two runs in the eighth inning to take the loss.
Alex Guerrero homered, his third in four games, and Justin Turner knocked in the other run for the Dodgers, who lost for just the second time in six games.
Mike Bolsinger looks to extend his excellent start to the season tonight as he goes after a fourth straight winning start for the Dodgers.
After going 1-6 with a 5.50 earned run average in 10 games (9 starts) with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, Bolsinger is 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA in four starts this season with the Dodgers. He did not get a decision in his season debut on April 23, but has picked up three wins in a row since being reinserted into the rotation in mid-May.
The 27-year-old righty posted his second straight scoreless outing on Saturday versus San Diego, scattering just one hit without a walk over a career-high eight innings. He also fanned eight batters in the 2-0 win.
"I was locating my off-speed pitch. I stayed ahead of hitters," said Bolsinger, who retired 23 straight batters and will be facing the Cardinals for the first time in his career.
Winless in his past three outings, John Lackey takes the mound tonight for the Cardinals.
Lackey dropped a 3-2 outing to the Kansas City Royals on Saturday. He was charged with three runs on six hits and a pair of walks over five innings, but the contest was called due to thunderstorms in the area.
"It stinks really bad," Lackey said of the rain-shortened loss. "There's a lot of game left."
The veteran righty lost his second decision in a row and is 2-3 on the year with a 3.18 ERA. He is 5-3 lifetime versus the Dodgers with an excellent 1.93 ERA over 11 games (10 starts).