ST. LOUIS -- Since July 17, the Cardinals have used a roster that includes 13 pitchers and only four bench players. Though that type of a lineup is a rarity, St. Louis will have to get used to it for quite a while.

On Thursday, manager Tony La Russa admitted the Cardinals may employ that seldom-used combination through Aug. 3 -- past the club's upcoming series with the Mets and through the end of the their next home series. If that is the case, the Cards will have gone with only four bench players for 18 straight days.

"Well, we're playing every day without a break," La Russa said. "But we're monitoring it, and if we get a couple of days where we're really well-rested, we could send a pitcher out and bring a player in. Our front office is very good about helping us try to stay current."

La Russa used the combination earlier this year when the Cardinals played Interleague games.

Though La Russa stated on Tuesday that the bullpen has not done as poor of a job as its record indicates, using 13 pitchers gives the Cardinals an extra reliever out of the bullpen. With St. Louis playing numerous close games, the extra help is more than welcomed.

"A lot of clubs use 11 pitchers," La Russa said. "We go with 12 most of the time, so we have five bench players -- now you have four. It's a decision made to protect pitching with one extra move in a game."

Since the Cardinals made the move to go with four bench players, they have experienced the ultimate highs and lows of the combination's consequences. After sweeping the Padres in four games, the Cards struggled against the Brewers.

St. Louis only scored nine runs in the four-game set against Milwaukee, dropping all four.

Pitching matchup
STL: RHP Mitchell Boggs (3-1, 6.59 ERA)
Boggs, a rookie, won three of his first five Major League starts, but then he ran into a problem against the Mets on July 3. Boggs allowed 11 runs -- 10 earned -- on 10 hits and six walks in six innings.

NYM: RHP Mike Pelfrey (8-6, 3.81 ERA)
Pelfrey's streak of consecutive starts won ended at six in Cincinnati on Sunday, but he didn't lose, and he provided what few of his starting colleagues provide -- length. He pitched seven innings and allowed only six hits and a walk. But three of the hits were solo home runs, a surprising development because he had surrendered merely four homers in 108 2/3 innings before Sunday.

Tidbits
Boggs will make his second career start against the Mets and first at Shea Stadium. ... The Cardinals will play 17 of their next 23 games on the road. St. Louis (27-22) is one of four National League teams to have a road record above .500. ... The Cardinals' games on Aug. 3 (against Philadelphia) and Aug. 10 (at Chicago) will start at 7:09 p.m. CT after being selected for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

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On the Internet
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On radio
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Up next
• Saturday: Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 3-4, 4.52) at Mets (Brandon Knight, 0-0, -.--), 6:10 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Cardinals (Kyle Lohse, 12-2, 3.35) at Mets (Johan Santana, 8-7, 3.05), 12:10 p.m. CT
• Monday: Cardinals (Braden Looper, 9-8, 4.49) at Braves (Charlie Morton, 2-3, 6.00), 6:00 p.m. CT