MLB

'Tough' Cardinals seek another crisp showing vs. Rockies

ST. LOUIS -- Teams that possess a shaky defense and inconsistent bullpen tend to sustain their share of gut-punch losses, and the St. Louis Cardinals certainly fit that category.

On their last road trip alone, the Cardinals went 4-6. Three of those losses were of the walk-off variety, and a fourth occurred Saturday when the Chicago Cubs scored three two-out runs in the bottom of the eighth for a 3-2 verdict.

However, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny continues to tout his team's resilience. The Cardinals displayed some of it Monday night by rolling over the Colorado Rockies 8-2 and moving within four games of the idle Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the National League Central.

St. Louis (48-51) will try to build on that performance Tuesday night at Busch Stadium in the second game of its three-game series with Colorado (58-43).

"We've seen too many times where a team takes a hard loss, and they just come back and play," Matheny said. "I'm going to tell you this right now, this is a tough team. I have no doubt about their toughness."

If nothing else, St. Louis certainly produced a crisp all-around game Monday. Starter Mike Leake fired seven shutout innings, the defense was clean throughout and the offense banged out 12 hits.

The Cardinals' hitters were on point from the outset. They forced Antonio Senzatela to throw a whopping 39 pitches in the first inning, with four plate appearances lasting six or seven pitches. The two runs they scored in the inning set the tone for the night.

"It was an uphill battle from the start," Rockies manager Bud Black said of Senzatela's performance.

Black hopes for a more polished outing from right-hander Jon Gray (3-1, 6.19 ERA), who cruised to an 18-4 win Wednesday over the San Diego Padres. Gray gave up seven hits and four runs in six innings with two walks and seven strikeouts, although all four runs scored in the sixth after Colorado established a 13-0 lead.

In his only career start against the Cardinals, Gray was roughed up for nine runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings on May 19, 2016, taking a 13-7 defeat.

Opposing Gray will be right-hander Lance Lynn (8-6, 3.30), who has enjoyed one of the best stretches of his career in the past three games. Lynn has permitted only one run over 19 1/3 innings, that occurring Thursday when New York Mets first baseman Lucas Duda popped a solo homer off him in the second inning.

Lynn has faced the Rockies six times in his career, going 2-2 with a 2.97 ERA. He absorbed an 8-4 loss May 28 in Denver, permitting four runs over five innings as he dealt with a blister.

One matchup to watch could be Lynn against Rockies left fielder Gerardo Parra, who is 13-for-26 in his career against him with three homers and six RBIs.

Parra clouted a three-run homer off Lynn in May and caused a stir among St. Louis players by holding the bat over his head in his follow-through after leaving the batter's box.

Colorado enters play Tuesday in a virtual tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the two NL wild-card spots, 5 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago Cubs.