At 27-13 through 40 games, the Dodgers might be the surprise of the league. Los Angeles has amassed an 18-4 record at home and a plus-44 run differential. Most impressive is how the Dodgers have persevered through myriad injuries, including a trip to the disabled list by the lineup's centerpiece, outfielder Matt Kemp.
"I don't really care what lineup we put out there, I feel like we're going to win," manager Don Mattingly said.
On Saturday, the club lost second baseman Mark Ellis for six weeks after he underwent a procedure team doctors called a fasciotomy, which drained blood and fluid from a contusion in his lower left leg, and also relieved tension and pressure. Ellis, who will remain hospitalized until Tuesday, was upended on a hard slide during Friday's game.
"He's one of those guys that the more you see him, the better he is," Mattingly said. "It just gets better and better with him. So, again, it's tough. He's a tough guy to replace."
The Dodgers have also lost Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Uribe and Juan Rivera to the DL in the last two weeks. Hairston, recovering from a left hamstring strain, is hopeful he'll be able to return by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Even as the injuries pile up, Mattingly isn't one to make excuses.
"It's not all bleak. Everything has kind of happened in a clump here, but I still feel good," Mattingly said. "It's not like these are all long-term things.
On Sunday, the Dodgers will look to finish a three-game sweep of the Cardinals, who also got off to a fast start -- they opened the season 9-3. St. Louis, however, has simmered, going 13-15 since.
"I think what we saw in April is who we are," manager Mike Matheny said. "That's what I believe. Just make sure that these guys believe that. A couple of miscues don't define us. I think that's going to be a test for every team."
The Cardinals have suffered through their own injury problems, losing Jon Jay, Lance Berkman, Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran from their batting order at various points in the season. Berkman left Saturday's contest with a right knee injury. He will have an MRI on Monday and likely is bound for the disabled list.
Cardinals: Lohse eyes another solid start
St. Louis righty Kyle Lohse, who has compiled a 5-1 record and 2.70 ERA in eight starts this season, will toe the rubber on Sunday. The Cardinals have won seven of his eight outings.
Matheny said he's still calculating what the team's identity can be, but noted that starting pitching could determine how the Cardinals fare the rest of the season.
"I've seen tremendous starting pitching. If we have that all season, we'll be in good shape," Matheny said. "I've seen a fight in these guys every time we're down. They're tenacious about getting back in the game. Defensively, up until this road trip, we were the best defensive team in the league. I think it's considerably better than what was going on last year when there were some people doubting the defense and talking about it. That's something to build off of. And then the offensive explosions this team has been able to have."
Dodgers: Club confident in Billingsley
Chad Billingsley will take the hill for the Dodgers on Sunday. He has lasted just four innings in each of his last two starts.
Nevertheless, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt isn't concerned.
"Mechanically, when his arm gets a little late, his ball runs back over the plate and that isn't good," Honeycutt said. "He's still competing. It might have looked bad, but it comes back to fastball command. His curveball is still good, and his slider, he needs to know when to use it, and sometimes he shakes off and I'm not sure he trusts it as much as we trust it."
Overall, Billingsley is 2-3 with a 3.83 ERA.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis has reached base in 28 straight games and in 31 of his last 32 contests.