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KANSAS CITY • Having already won the first two series on this nine-game, three-city swing, the Cardinals face arguably the most vulnerable opponent on the trip and can field, for the first time in a while, inarguably their best offensive lineup.

The designated hitter does a wonder for their depth.

Jose Martinez scores the first start at DH as the Cardinals start a weekend, interleague series against their cross-state rivals, the Kansas City Royals. The access to an American League-style lineup affords the Cardinals to do things that the NL handcuffs — get Martinez at-bats without putting him in the field and planting a hitter ahead of Matt Carpenter who is not a pitcher.

Carpenter, the NL leader in almost all of the significant offensive categories, has spent most of the past month popping leadoff homers and solo homers on his way to the best OPS in the league and a career-high homer total by the first week of August.

So much of that damage has been inflicted without runners on base because he bats leadoff, behind the pitcher.

The AL has a fix for that.

Rookie Harrison Bader will take over as the No. 9 hitter, and with Carpenter at first, Jedd Gyorko mans third base. The added hitter could beef up the Cardinals defense, as well. Interleague helps the Cardinals make the most of the roster they’ve started getting more from.

The Cardinals are 4-2 on the road trip and have inched back onto the periphery of the NL wild card race. The Cardinals have pulled into a tie, at 60-55, with Colorado, and they are each 3½ games behind the second wild-card berth. At the same time the Cardinals have won seven out of their past 10 games, the Brewers have gone 5-5 to allow the Cardinals to cleave two games off the lead. The Cardinals are 4½ games behind the Brewers — and set to face the reeling Royals (35-79) while the Brewers face Atlanta, the team currently possessing the second wild card.

In short, this is a weekend to gain ground because one of those two teams has to lose. Win and the Cardinals are certain to creep closer to someone.

There is a smattering of injury/rehab news as well. A roundup:

  • John Brebbia has been placed on the disabled list and his most recent option voided. Brebbia has some forearm stiffness that has its epicenter near his hand. The team does not believe his elbow is the cause of the pain.
  • Adam Wainwright threw a game simulation in Jupiter, Fla., on Friday morning and will likely complete another similar outing in the coming days. He felt good, according to an official.
  • Carlos Martinez has intensified his throwing program after returning Thursday to St. Louis. He could return to the mound for a test-drive of his arm during the coming home stand. That's the schedule, currently.

Here’s the aforementioned lineup:

1. Matt Carpenter, 1B

2. Yadier Molina, C

3. Jose Martinez, DH

4. Marcell Ozuna, LF

5. Paul DeJong, SS

6. Jedd Gyorko, 3B

7. Kolten Wong, 2B

8. Yairo Munoz, RF

9. Harrison Bader, CF

Pitcher: Austin Gomber, LHP

Check back throughout the evening for more from Kauffman Stadium and any news, notes, anecdotes that should surface as KC hosts the Cardinals and a flock of fans.

Derrick Goold

@dgoold on Twitter


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