Series preview: Dodgers at Cardinals

The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals both have designs on dominating the National League and, once again, they’re in each others’ way.

The Dodgers are in St. Louis to open what is traditionally called the second half, though just 65 of the team’s games remain after the All-Star break. It is the Dodgers’ first visit to St. Louis since Game 6 of last year’s NLCS, which ended the Dodgers’ season.

Both teams have been making strong moves in their divisions. The Dodgers wiped out a 9 1/2-game deficit to the San Francisco Giants over a three-week stretch of June and now lead the division by a game. The Cardinals gained 6 ½ games on the Milwaukee Brewers in the first 12 days of July and are a game out.

This series is the first of three straight on the road for the Dodgers, who don’t return to Dodger Stadium until July 29 and, by then, their roster could have a different look. General manager Ned Colletti is looking to add at least one reliever and one starting pitcher before the July 31 trade deadline, and it’s possible the Dodgers could move one of their three highly-paid outfielders to open up a roster spot for highly-regarded center-field prospect Joc Pederson, who homered in Wednesday night’s Triple-A All-Star game.

According to reports from Albuquerque, the Dodgers’ roster might even have a different look by tonight. Reliever Paco Rodriguez, who was a left-handed stalwart for the Dodgers last year, was not available to pitch for the Isotopes Thursday night and he is expected to join the Dodgers before tonight’s game. The team opened a roster spot by optioning Pedro Baez earlier this week.

The Dodgers are already anticipating the final stop of this three-city trip, in San Francisco. The reason No. 5 starter Dan Haren, a former Cardinal, is opening the second half is that the Dodgers want Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw to start in that San Francisco series. Greinke and Kershaw, who each pitched a perfect inning at Tuesday’s All-Star game, are scheduled to pitch Saturday and Sunday.

The Dodgers won’t face Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who started and gave up three first-inning runs in the American League’s 5-3 win at Tuesday night’s All-Star game. Instead, they’ll face Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez.

With two open dates coming out of the break, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny has said he is contemplating a four-man rotation in the short term.