The Cardinals turn to their most consistent starter of the second half on Tuesday at Coors Field as they look to remain atop the National League Central.
St. Louis remained in first place despite Monday's loss in Denver, but is tied with the Pirates and 2 1/2 games ahead of third-place Cincinnati. The Cardinals -- winners in eight of their last 12 -- look to take control of the division as right-hander Joe Kelly faces Rockies righty Juan Nicasio.
"It's fun, man," Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran said of the three-way battle for the NL Central. "There's a lot of teams who would love to be in our position, being able to fight for a banner and win our division, I think is a great feeling. Right now, we're in a good position and we have find a way to finish this strong."
Kelly looks to rebound from his first loss since June 5 in his last outing, against the Brewers on Thursday. Kelly has worked into the sixth inning in 12 of his 13 starts this year and has a 2.05 ERA since June 1 -- the third best in the Majors behind Miami's Jose Fernandez and Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw.
Nicasio takes the mound for the Rockies, who have dropped seven of their last 10. The righty is looking to get into the sixth inning, which has long proven to be key for him. In the 23 times Nicasio has reached the sixth inning in his 51 career starts, he's 11-2 with a 2.16 ERA -- including a 5-1 record and 2.14 mark this year.
Nicasio tossed five innings of one-run ball in his last start, against the Giants on Wednesday.
Cardinals: Expanded rosters welcome at Coors
Like other teams, the Cardinals have been able to take advantage of expanded rosters this month. Manager Mike Matheny said he expects the extra players to come in handy during the four-game series at Coors Field, but he won't overuse them.
"Always like having the extra arms, no question. The extra bodies, too, the extra rest," Matheny said. "But you never know if something's going to be an advantage or disadvantage -- every game is just the biggest game of the year. That's how we've played them since April. In that regard, we're going to do what we do on a daily basis regardless of how many games we have here, where we are, the other team. We try to be consistent."
• Second baseman Matt Carpenter's 51 doubles are two shy of Stan Musial's single-season record for most by a left-handed batter in franchise history.
Rockies: Cuddyer falls behind Johnson
Michael Cuddyer's 0-for-4 performance on Monday night dropped his batting average to .329 -- one point behind Atlanta's Chris Johnson in the race for the NL batting title.
• Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (bruised left thumb) is hoping to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday and return to the rotation on Saturday against the D-backs.
• Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is hitting .471 (8-for-17) in his last five games.
• Current Cardinals and former Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday has eight homers and 23 RBIs in 28 career games against his former team.
• Carpenter has an eight-game hitting streak (.419).
• Tuesday is Kelly's first career start at Coors Field.