Given their standing atop the National League, it's no surprise that the Cardinals boast the NL's best record since April 24, a 16-8 mark equaled by only one other team.
But who in the NL has been as hot as the the 28-16 Cardinals? None other than the Padres, who have won 16 of 24 since a miserable 5-15 start. After Monday's 4-2 win over St. Louis, San Diego has also won 12 of its past 15 at Petco Park, a mark it will try to improve upon Tuesday night in the second part of this three-game series.
Looking to get within one win of a .500 record, the Padres will turn to right-hander Edinson Volquez. Volquez will be making his 10th start of the season, and he's put up respectable numbers over his last six outings, including a 3-1 record and 3.47 ERA, though San Diego is just 3-3 over that stretch.
After putting together two quality starts against the D-backs and Rays, Volquez faltered Thursday against the Nationals, allowing five runs on five hits and four walks over five innings. He was tagged with the loss, his first since April 13.
"It was my fault. I'm supposed to pitch seven, eight innings," Volquez said Thursday. "I walked a couple guys. ... That's something I've got to stop doing."
Perhaps he could pick up something from Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who's walked only five batters in 64 2/3 innings this season, all while jumping out to a 5-3 start and a 2.51 ERA. Wainwright's 12.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best in the NL, and he added to that in his last start Thursday with eight strikeouts and only one walk.
But Wainwright was tagged with the loss in that start, giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits in six innings against the Mets. After a 120-pitch, two-hit shutout against the Rockies on May 11, Wainwright threw only 87 pitches on Thursday. But he denied any thoughts that his long outing might have carried over, saying he could have "easily" thrown seven or eight innings.
Instead, Wainwright placed the blame for his loss on a few pitches left over the plate and the absence of his usual command.
"I felt like it was good, not great," Wainwright said. "I definitely wasted today with not executing a couple pitches. But I had more than enough good stuff to get the job done."
St. Louis has still won six of Wainwright's nine outings this season, and he hasn't lost two straight starts at any point this year.
Cardinals: Jay thriving since leaving leadoff spot
• Center fielder Jon Jay has hit .354 (28-for-79) since moving out of the leadoff spot on April 22, and his 15 RBIs during that stretch are tied for second on the team with Carlos Beltran, with both three behind Allen Craig's 18 RBIs over that span. Jay has mostly found himself batting sixth, where he went 2-for-4 on Monday night, the only Cardinal with a multihit game.
Jay has hit in 15 of his last 16 starts and driven in 15 runs in his last 15 games.
"I always thought his lack of production in the past was kind of false numbers. He takes good at-bats," manager Mike Matheny said. "He doesn't do much different with guys in scoring position. I think he's proved that to himself that he can do that when the situation presents itself."
• David Freese was scratched for precautionary reasons Monday night due to some swelling in his right hand. Freese needed three stitches near his right thumb to close a cut he suffered Sunday when he was spiked while chasing down and applying a tag on Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki.
Padres: Offense breaking out
• San Diego has scored 92 runs over its last 19 games, most in the NL and an average of 4.84 per game that's left manager Bud Black praising his lineup. The Padres followed up a 15-hit, 13-run outing against the Nationals on Sunday by scoring four against the Cardinals, including three on five hits and three walks against tough rookie Shelby Miller
"Offensively, I like the mix of players with different skill sets -- there's speed, there's average and there is power," Black said. "There are a number of guys are getting into their career where their numbers should be stable and even improve. ... There should be a growth in performance."
• The Padres have hit 21 homers in 23 games at Petco Park this season, no small feat considering their 20th homer at home last year came on July 20, their 49th home game.
• The Padres have now won five consecutive games against the Cardinals at Petco Park dating back to May 25, 2011.
• Mitchell Boggs gave up a homer to Will Venable, the first batter he saw Monday night. But the Cardinals have kept their opponents from hitting a homer in a Major League-high 26 games this season, going 19-7 in those games.