A pair of teams involved in tight races atop their respective divisions open up a three-game set on Friday night as the St. Louis Cardinals play host to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers lead the NL West by a game over the San Francisco Giants after taking three of four from the San Diego Padres ahead of the All-Star break. They took the final two of that set by 1-0 scores and will try to pad their edge atop the division on a nine-game road swing.
Los Angeles will be able to take matters into its own hands at the end of the trek as it visits San Francisco for three games.
St. Louis, meanwhile has won five of its last seven but did drop an 11-2 decision to Milwaukee on Sunday. That put the Cardinals a game behind the Brewers for the top spot in a tight NL Central, and the Cincinnati Reds are only a half-game back of the Cards in the standings.
Right-hander Dan Haren will try to shut down the Cardinals tonight, but struggled in his final two outings before the break. Over those setbacks, Haren allowed 12 runs, 16 hits and three homers over 9 1/3 innings, lasting just four-plus frames versus San Diego on July 11.
"Dan just didn't get the ball where he wanted to tonight," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He wasn't as sharp as he's been. We gave them extra chances. We missed opportunities tonight. We have to learn from it and move forward."
Prior to the setbacks, the 33-year-old Haren beat Cleveland on June 30 with seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball and is 8-6 with a 4.23 earned run average on the year. He is 4-1 lifetime versus the Cardinals with a 3.86 ERA.
The Cardinals open this set with right-hander Lance Lynn on the mound. He is 4-2 over his last six starts, posting a 2.41 ERA and three scoreless outings over that span.
Lynn won his second start in a row on July 9 when he limited the Pittsburgh Pirates to a pair of runs over 6 2/3 innings. He improved to 10-6 on the year with a 3.14 ERA.
"He's one of those guys that I think gets overlooked a lot," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Lynn. "Really threw a nice game for us."
Lynn, 27, is 2-1 with a 4.95 ERA in four career meetings with the Dodgers, who roughed him up for six earned runs over just two innings in L.A. back on June 28.
Cardinals rookie second baseman Kolten Wong comes out of the break with a hit in six straight, notching four homers and seven RBI.
The Dodgers took three of four at home versus the Cardinals from June 26-29 and have won five the last six encounters.