Dropped Out of First

The Arizona Diamondbacks' latest funk has caused them to drop out of first place in the NL West. It won't be easy getting back on track, either, as they visit a city where they've had minimal success.

The Diamondbacks look to avoid losing their third straight game when they open a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Monday night.

Oddsmakers have made Arizona -130 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 8ev total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Chicago -110 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Arizona (46-37) was in first place in the division on June 24, but has lost five of its last seven games to fall into third place in the NL West, 1 1/2 games back of first-place San Diego.

The Diamondbacks suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season on Sunday, losing 13-0 to San Francisco, and have scored just one run in losing their last two games.

They are tied with Atlanta for the third-best road record in the NL (21-18), but winning in St. Louis (36-42) has been problematic for Arizona.

The Diamondbacks lost two of three at Busch Stadium last season, and have not won a series there since 2003. They are 11-20 all-time in regular-season play in St. Louis, their worst record at any NL city.

Brandon Webb (8-5, 3.05 ERA) tries to lead Arizona to a rare win at Busch Stadium, and build his All-Star case when he takes the hill on Monday.

Webb won last season's NL Cy Young Award and is having a solid 2007, but has not yet been named to the NL All-Star team. He can still make consecutive All-Star trips, though, if fans choose him as part of the final vote.

The right-hander is coming off one of his better starts of the season, as he gave up seven hits and five walks in seven innings of Wednesday's 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He improved to 5-2 in his last seven starts, and Arizona is 12-5 this season with its ace on the mound.

"That's kind of what your No. 1 pitcher is supposed to do: Go out there and give your team a good chance to win,'' Webb said. "So that definitely was satisfying."

Webb's best start of his 2006 Cy Young season came against St. Louis, as he threw a one-hitter in the Diamondbacks' 3-0 victory on Sept. 9. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak to the Cardinals, as he improved to 1-3 with a 4.08 ERA in five career starts against them.

St. Louis defeated Cincinnati 11-7 on Sunday, and has alternated wins and losses in its last six games.

Ryan Ludwick hit a three-run homer and a solo shot on Sunday, while Chris Duncan hit his 15th home run of the season.

Albert Pujols, who was selected to his sixth All-Star game on Sunday, is just 3-for-15 (.200) with a double in his career against Webb.

Braden Looper (6-6, 4.66) is slated to come off the disabled list and pitch Monday's series opener, after missing the last two weeks with a right shoulder strain.

Looper got knocked around in his last two starts before being placed on the DL, giving up 13 runs in 10 1-3 innings in those games. The right-hander is a starting pitcher this season for the first time in his 10-year career, and has already thrown 9 2-3 more innings than he threw all of last season.

This will be Looper's first career start against the Diamondbacks, after 26 career relief appearances against them. He is 1-2 with 10 saves in 11 opportunities and a 2.42 ERA lifetime against Arizona.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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