Kyle McClellan might be the biggest surprise among baseball's wins leaders, and he has a strong chance to gain sole possession of first on that list.
McClellan (6-1, 3.43 ERA) is tied with teammate Kyle Lohse and a slew of others at six victories, but he could be the most unlikely member of that club.
Due to a season-ending injury to Adam Wainwright, McClellan is in his first full season as a starter with St. Louis (29-20) after going 7-15 with a 3.23 ERA over the previous three years while being used exclusively out of the bullpen.
The right-hander was impressive again Thursday, yielding two runs and five hits in eight innings while tossing just 90 pitches in a 4-2 win over Houston. He's thrown fewer than 100 pitches in eight of his nine games.
"I don't know what my pitch count was, but I thought I was throwing a lot of strikes," McClellan said Thursday. "That's when I'm at my best, locating down in the zone."
McClellan is 0-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five relief appearances at spacious Petco Park, and his first start there may produce similar results. The Padres (19-29) are an NL-worst 8-19 as host while hitting .202.
San Diego hasn't scored more than one run in five consecutive home games, getting shut out once, and losing four of those games.
The Cardinals, who have won seven of eight, capitalized on the Padres' woeful offense Monday in a 3-1 victory.
Albert Pujols is trying to build on his first home run in 28 games after breaking a scoreless tie in the sixth in the series opener. The All-Star first baseman is batting .268 - 61 points below his career average - with eight homers and 26 RBIs.
He's homered in three of his last five games at Petco and each of the past two.
"You watch, he's making contact like that. He might not have the first 10 days of the season," manager Tony La Russa said. "After that he's made contact. He just keeps hitting it hard. They're pitching him like he's hitting .350, so every at-bat's a tough one for him."
The Padres have been outscored 28-7 during a 1-6 run, and their 398 strikeouts lead the majors by 20 on Washington.
"I think our guys come to play every day," manager Bud Black said. "They come expecting to win. No, I don't think the cumulative effect will have an impact on us (Tuesday)."
Black gives the ball to Aaron Harang (5-2, 4.31), who is well aware of San Diego's offensive shortcomings.
The right-hander scattered six hits in eight scoreless innings while the Padres were limited to seven hits and went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in a 1-0 loss to Milwaukee on Thursday.
Harang is 3-2 with a 3.79 ERA in six home starts, getting one or no runs in three of his last four, including both losses.
While Harang is in his first season with San Diego, facing the Cardinals produced similar trends with Cincinnati. He's lost four starts in a row to the NL Central leaders behind a 4.68 ERA while the Reds backed him with three total runs.