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Series Thirty-Five: Marlins at Cardinals

All things considered, the Marlins just concluded a pretty good homestand. Not great, but good enough. The Fish finished the brief homestand with four wins and two losses (the losses bookending the beginning and end of the stand).

Now the Marlins, in the midst of a 21-games in 20-days schedule, travel to St. Louis for a four game set against the reigning National League Champions. In anticipation of that, we sat down with the Cardinals' Fred Bird to discuss the series.

: Welcome to FishStripes, Fred Bird.

: Thanks for having me. I'm really looking forward to this upcoming series.

: I'm sure you are. There's a lot to look forward to in St. Louis all the time. Your Cards are sure playing some great baseball.

: Well, they've stumbled a bit of late - with just five wins in their past ten games, but they still have a healthy 9.5 game lead in the Central. But July still goes into the books as the Cardinals 10th consecutive month with a winning record (15-9).

: I know it's too early to start gearing up for the playoffs, but what is it that's driving the Cards success again this year? With Scott Rolen having only appeared in about half of the team's games, I would think that the Cards would be struggling more.

: Sure - that's fair. Rolen is a great player. But fortunately for the Cardinals, a number of players have stepped up. Albert Pujols is still Albert Pujols, and that's arguably the best thing to have in your lineup this side of a healthy Barry Bonds.

Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker have been their typical outstanding selves too.

What jumps out at you about these Cardinals are the strong performances of Chris Carpenter, David Eckstein, and Reggie Sanders.

If not for Roger Clemens (and possibly your own Dontrelle Willis), Chris Carpenter would likely need to start working on his Cy Young Award acceptance speech. He's truly been dominating this year.

David Eckstein, an offseason free agent signing, has also been huge for the Cards. He hasn't been highlight-reel spectacular, but he's been very good - offensively, although without power, and in the field.

Reggie Sanders, too, has been better than expected. He has 18 homers and an OPS of about .900.

: Are you sad that this is your last year in Busch Stadium?

: Yes, of course I am. We've been here at Busch for 40 years. But at the same time, I'm excited about the new park. It's going to be spectacular. One cool thing that many out of towners don't realize is that it's going to be built immediately adjacent to the current park. In fact, part of what will be left field at the new park is in what's right field at the current park. That will delay the completion of the new stadium (it will likely take until some time next summer), but we'll still be ready to move into the new place by next year's opening day.

: I so wish we had a new stadium. And after getting rained on a few times last week, I hope the new place has a roof - maybe a retractable one.

Anyway, I know the Cards in great position to reach the post-season (again), but they didn't make any moves at the deadline. What gives?

: Well, the Cardinals feel like they're pretty well positioned to get back to where they were last year (the World Series). And with the success they've had so far this year, Walt Jocketty and crew felt that it was better to keep the chemistry as-is. At this point, there's not much sense in upsetting the apple cart.

Yes, Reggie Sanders is on the DL and so is Scott Rolen, but they'll be back. Some folks have speculated that Rolen is out for the year, but we're pretty convinced that he'll be back at some point. Adding Rolen into this potent lineup down the line is like picking up a Gold Glover and Silver Slugger all in one, but without having to give anything up to another team.

: Thanks for your time, Fred. Make sure to stay hydrated this week. It's going to be hot.