The Cardinals will show up to Busch Stadium on Saturday in second place in the National League Central, but if they can turn it up the way manager Mike Matheny thinks they can -- and solve Zack Greinke in the process -- it might not be that way for much longer.
Right-hander Joe Kelly will get the ball for St. Louis opposite righty Greinke and the Dodgers in the middle of a three-game set between Los Angeles and the Cardinals, who are just one game behind the first-place Brewers despite not playing to their full capabilities in the first half.
"We still haven't, in our minds, played the consistent type of baseball we want to have played, and we're still right there and had a taste of first place for a little while despite not having all of our guys locked in and playing our best," Matheny said. "We haven't played to that level that we expect ourselves, which is what really matters. It doesn't matter what anyone else expects. We haven't done that quite yet, and we're still right there when you start looking at best records in the National League."
Also right there are the Dodgers, who are tied with the Giants atop the NL West. Los Angeles fell to the Cards, 3-2, on Friday after taking three of four from St. Louis last month at Dodger Stadium, outscoring the visitors, 17-4.
Greinke got credit for one of those wins. He limited the Cardinals to one run in seven innings while striking out 10, a start in line with what he's done much of this season, as he sports a 2.73 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Greinke also strikes out more than a batter per inning and nearly six for every one he walks.
He has won his last four starts against St. Louis (1.37 ERA), and the Dodgers had the best starter ERA in the Majors (3.08) entering Friday.
"They have a good pitching staff," said Matheny, whose team ranked fifth in that category with a 3.35 ERA. "They have some good arms, whether it's the three starters they're showing or it's the three guys out of the 'pen. Just hopefully [we can] get back to a consistent approach and take good at-bats all the time."
Added Dodgers manager Don Mattingly: "We feel good about our guys, that's for sure."
Kelly (3.44 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) will make his fifth start of the season and second since returning from a strained left hamstring that kept him sidelined for nearly three months. On July 11, he lasted three innings while giving up six runs on seven hits and two walks.
Dodgers: Lack of Puig power not an issue for Mattingly
• Yasiel Puig has homered just once since the start of June -- a stretch that coincides with a decline in overall offensive production, including a .264/.333/.399 slash line entering Friday -- but for Mattingly, Puig's tendency to keep balls in the park is not a concern.
"He's been patient a big part of the season. He's shown a little bit recently that he's not been as patient," Mattingly said. "I think he has to get back to that."
Puig had 11 homers through the end of May, a rate of about one long ball per 21 plate appearances. Last year that rate was one homer per approximately 23 plate appearances.
"I don't think we really look at Yasiel as a guy that's a home run guy yet," Mattingly said. "Maybe he develops that, too. He's best when he's in the middle of the field. He hits the ball to right-center and right field as good as anybody. We feel like when he gets out of that, that gets him in trouble. … The home runs aren't really an issue for us. He's making strides."
Cardinals: Wainwright a no-go for the weekend
• For those looking forward to a potential Clayton Kershaw-Adam Wainwright matchup this series, better luck next time. The Cards are opting to give their ace extra rest following his All-Star Game start Tuesday, an honor he received over Kershaw. Matheny caught some flak for giving his own starter the nod.
"I would have liked to have had that challenge [of starting against Kershaw]," said Wainwright, who grinned when the topic was broached. "But I also am looking forward to starting a couple days after that."
Instead, Wainwright will start Tuesday against the Rays.
Kershaw will face off against Carlos Martinez on Sunday night.
• In his return from a stay on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, the Dodgers' Justin Turner grounded out to second in his only at-bat. Teammate Hanley Ramirez (right shoulder) went 1-for-4 with a double and a strikeout in his first game since July 10.
• Since Busch Stadium III opened in 2006, the Cards are 39-16 in their first homestand following the All-Star break.
• St. Louis has occupied first place for just one day since April 5.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.