The math is simple for the Cardinals if they are to have a shot at the wild card. They must win every series the rest of the way. As a barometer, they have won just one of their last four series.
Albert Pujols, however, said, "Every team has hope. If you don't have hope, you don't belong in the big leagues.
"We're five games out and nine games out of the Central Division (lead), but we're still having a great year. Hopefully we can finish strong and we can get the opportunity that we missed last year. If we don't get that opportunity, it's another year you cannot waste, because we obviously play to get to the World Series and bring another ring to the city of St. Louis."
Pujols is piling up numbers in his bid for his second Most Valuable Player Award. His .359 average leads the league, and he also is first in on-base percentage (.466) and slugging percentage (.649).
With only five more runs batted in, Pujols will extend his record to eight years from the start of his career in which he has hit at least .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBI.
After missing by one run last year, he also could return to the 100-run plateau. He needs just 12.
And, after also falling short by only one walk last year, Pujols needs seven walks for his first 100-walk season.
NOTES AND QUOTES:
--RHP Kyle Lohse, winless in his last five starts, will make another try for his 14th win on Tuesday. Lohse and the next two starters against the Cubs, RHPs Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer, all have a shot at 15 victories.
--Cardinals starters are 57-36, which means that the bullpen is 20-30.
--Manager Tony La Russa suggested that he wouldn't mind using RHP Chris Carpenter, normally a starter, as a ninth-inning man once in a while as Carpenter rebounds from a shoulder strain.
--The Cardinals are 64-15 when they have 10 or more hits. When they don't, they are 13-51 although they won a game with nine hits on Sunday.
--Two more wins at home in their remaining 10 home games will ensure the Cardinals a winning season at Busch. Three wins in their final nine games on the road will achieve the same.
BY THE NUMBERS: 25 -- Rick Ankiel has joined Babe Ruth as the only players to have made 25 or more starts as a pitcher in one season and hit 25 or more homers in another.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I would think the idea this winter is to make some significant additions so we can be there." -- Manager Tony La Russa, on his hope that the club will better be able to challenge for a championship next season.