When the Cardinals and Dodgers last met at Busch Stadium, it was late October as the two teams squared off in the National League Championship Series aiming for a berth in the World Series.
The two teams will embark on the season's second half back in the shadows of the Arch on Friday, and while the stakes are lower than they were last fall, the importance of the series is not lacking. Both the Cardinals and Dodgers find themselves in heated divisional races as the second half begins.
"You look where we are in comparison to a lot of other teams in the game right now, and as much as it may not feel like that, we're in a spot where we just need to keep playing good baseball," Cards manager Mike Matheny said.
While the Cardinals will begin the second half where they spent much of the first -- in second in the National League Central -- it comes with a different feeling. The Cards gained 6 1/2 games in the first 12 days of July to move into a first-place tie with the Brewers before suffering an 11-2 loss on Sunday before the break to fall back to second.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, have surged into first in the NL West behind a hot streak of their own. Sitting 8 1/2 games back in the West on June 12, the Dodgers used a 19-10 stretch to head into the break with a one-game lead on San Francisco.
"I feel pretty good," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Obviously, at this point, we've been able to get ourselves back to where we want to be after having a fairly rough start and getting ourselves 9 1/2 back at one point. To get back into it, settle in, our pitching -- our bullpen more than anything -- has settled in because our starters are able to go longer."
Los Angeles closed June by winning three of four in L.A. against the Cardinals, who combined to score just four runs in the series.
The Cardinals will send Lance Lynn to the mound opposite the Dodgers' Dan Haren on Friday.
Dodgers: Puig's first half joins good Dodgers company
All-Star outfielder Yasiel Puig will emerge from the season's first half among good company in Dodgers' history.
The 23-year-old, second-year pro became one of six players in Dodgers history to record 100-plus hits, 40-plus extra-base hits and 50-plus RBIs before the All-Star break with 106 hits, 44 extra-base hits and 52 RBIs.
Other players in Dodgers history to accomplish the feat include Duke Snider (1954), Willie Davis (1973), Steve Garvey (1977), Gary Sheffield (2000) and Matt Kemp (2011).
Cardinals: Team could opt for four-man rotation out of break
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny wasn't ready Sunday to commit to his second-half rotation.
With two off-days mixed into their first five games out of the break, the Cardinals could opt for a four-man rotation to give one of their starters extra rest.
"Potentially," Matheny said of the idea in the week leading up to the break. "We definitely take that under consideration because the schedule after the break is pretty favorable for doing such a thing."
• Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong has homered in five of eight games since returning from the 15-day disabled list on July 6, hitting .321 (9-for-28).
• Haren is 3-1 in his career in six starts against the Cardinals with a 3.86 ERA. He last faced the Cards in April 2013 with the Nationals.
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.