ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals got to be kids for a day on Sunday.
With their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates moved to Williamsport, Pa., as part of cross-promotion with the Little League World Series, St. Louis players mingled with 12- and 13-year-old players.
Tommy Pham bought 200 snow cones for the youngsters. Lance Lynn talked baseball and memories with players on the bus in from the airport.
Lynn and teammate Randal Grichuk both played in the LLWS years ago.
"They had the opportunity to engage with the kids, connect, and hopefully give back to the game that has been so good to them in a small way," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said after his team's 6-3 loss to the Pirates.
Now it's time for the Cardinals to get back to the adult world, beginning with a Tuesday night visit from the San Diego Padres. With 38 games left in the season, St. Louis (63-61) is 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs in the National League Central. They are 4 1/2 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the NL's second wild-card spot.
The Cardinals are also starting a favorable stretch of scheduling. Of their next 22 games, 20 are against teams with losing records, including seven with San Diego (55-69). Their only games against a team with a winning record in that span are Aug. 29 and Aug. 30 in Milwaukee.
Question is, can St. Louis take full advantage of its schedule, given its sudden difficulty in getting opponents out? The Cardinals have allowed at least five runs in 11 consecutive games, dating to an 8-5 win Aug. 9 against the Kansas City Royals.
On paper, the Padres seem to be an ideal candidate to snap that streak. They managed just six runs in losing three of four to Washington over the weekend, including a 4-1 loss to Gio Gonzalez on Sunday.
Getting shut down by Gonzalez, who should earn some Cy Young Award votes, is one thing. Getting shut down by Edwin Jackson and Matt Grace, as they did in the series' first two games, is something else altogether.
Following the Sunday defeat, second-year manager Andy Green wasn't happy with San Diego's failure to take advantage of scoring opportunities.
"We had chances to win against one of the game's best teams, and we didn't capitalize all series," he said.
The Padres may find chances hard to come by Tuesday against Cardinals starter Lynn, who hasn't lost a start since July 4. Lynn (10-6, 3.05 ERA) gave up just two runs (one earned) and seven hits over six innings Wednesday night in Boston but settled for a no-decision when the Red Sox rallied for a 5-4 win.
Lynn has faced San Diego five times in his career, going 3-2 with a 2.70 ERA. He didn't pitch against the Padres last year as he recuperated from Tommy John surgery, and he hasn't opposed them this year.
Going against Lynn will be San Diego left-hander Clayton Richard (6-12, 4.84), who is coming off his best outing of the season. Richard blanked Philadelphia 3-0 Wednesday, allowing just three hits and a walk while fanning six in his first shutout since Aug. 8, 2012.
A sinkerballer who fetched a whopping 17 ground balls from the Phillies, Richard has faced St. Louis 12 times in his career, five times as a starter. Richard is 3-1 against the Cardinals with a 4.08 ERA.