for this game

Cards open series in KC with Carpenter on the mound

May 20, 2011 - 2:50 PM (Sports Network) - If the St. Louis Cardinals are going to stay at the top of the National League Central they are going to need Chris Carpenter to start pitching like Chris Carpenter.

Tonight the former NL Cy Young Award winner can start reversing his fortunes, as the Cardinals open a three-game interleague set with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Carpenter has allowed at least eight hits in six of his nine starts, and six runs or more on three occasions. He fell to 1-3 on the year on Sunday in Cincinnati, as the Reds pounded him for eight runs (seven earned) and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings to up his earned run average on the season to 4.95.

"My job is to go and pitch," said Carpenter. "These guys were busting their butts. It was just a crappy day. Balls are taking funny hops. I'm not concerned with what the guys around me are doing. They're playing their butts off. I've got to go out there and pitch."

Carpenter has faced the Royals 15 times (10 starts) and is 5-5 against them with a 3.86 ERA.

Another player who the Cardinals wouldn't mind seeing get off is first baseman Albert Pujols, who is hitting just .264 with seven home runs and 25 RBI this season. Pujols, though, has traditionally done well against the Royals, especially at Kauffman Stadium where he owns a .383 batting average, .464 on- base percentage, .783 slugging percentage, 13 homers and 37 RBI, while striking out just eight times in 138 plate appearances.

"You can't look at it like that," Pujols told his team's website. "Because if you approach it like that, I think you take things for granted. Am I excited playing in front of my friends and family? Yes. But I think it's the same as playing everywhere else -- I don't change my game because of where I play. I respect this game so much, and I play the way I'm supposed to play all the time, no matter where it is."

St. Louis could use their three-time NL MVP tonight, as it could once again be without Matt Holliday (quad) and Lance Berkman (wrist), both of whom missed Thursday's 4-2 win over the Houston Astros. Of the two, Holliday has the better chance of playing this evening. Berkman, who leads the team with 11 homers and 35 RBI, could sit out the entire series.

The victory was the Cardinals fourth in a row.

Kansas City, meanwhile, enters tonight's tilt on the heels of stopping a five- game losing streak, as Jeff Francoeur hit a game-winning RBI single in the 10th inning to lift the Royals over the Texas Rangers, 2-1, and split the teams' two-game set.

Thursday's victory was Kansas City's major league-leading seventh walk-off of the season.

Luke Hochevar allowed one run on six hits and two walks in 8 2/3 innings, but Greg Holland (1-0), who was called up from Triple-A Omaha earlier Thursday, earned his first career victory with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Tonight, the Royals turn to left-hander Jeff Francis, who is still searching for his first American League win. Francis fell to 0-5 on Saturday in Detroit, as the Tigers managed three runs and seven hits in eight innings. The loss actually dropped his ERA to 4.83.

Francis is 4-1 lifetime against the Cardinals with a 3.48 ERA in nine games, eight of which have been starts.

Kansas City won this I-70 series a year ago, taking two of the three matchups. However, prior to last season St. Louis had won seven of the last eight meetings.