ST. LOUIS — It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but the St. Louis Cardinals enter the second half of the season in first place in the National League Central Division.
Circumstances have forced manager Tony La Russa to use 15 rookies. The setbacks include the season-long absence of Troy Glaus, woeful starts from the players who were supposed to protect Albert Pujols and six weeks between starts for Kyle Lohse.
Yet the Cardinals are in a good position heading into a three-game series scheduled to begin Friday against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.
They are where they are largely because of Pujols, who leads the majors with 32 homers and 87 RBIs despite drawing 32 intentional walks, twice as many as anyone else.