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STL@PIT: Cole discusses the team's division race

In the middle of two playoff races, the Cardinals will look to win a series on Tuesday against the Pirates, whose playoff hopes are looking more and more likely that they'll rest solely in the National League Wild Card.

With Monday's 3-2 win in the opener at PNC Park, the Cardinals stretched their lead atop the Wild Card standings to three games, thanks to the Giants' 3-2 loss to the Rockies. St. Louis also kept the pressure on Milwaukee in the battle for first in the NL Central.

"You can't help but be aware of both because it's pretty widely talked about or on the screen in the clubhouse," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said of the pair of races. "We know where things stand. But there is a lot of baseball left, but we can only control what we can control, and that's playing good baseball every day."

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has dropped two in a row and is six games back in the NL Central race and just 1 1/2 behind the Giants for the second Wild Card spot following Monday's loss.

Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn will be looking to join rotation mate Adam Wainwright in the 15-win club on Tuesday, and Lynn's next victory will give him at least 15 wins in each of his first three seasons as a full-time starter. The Cards have won five of Lynn's seven outings since the All-Star break, and in that span he is 4-2 with a 1.84 ERA and .222 opponents' batting average.

Gerrit Cole will be making his second start since a strained right lat sidelined him for more than a month. The second-year Major Leaguer helped the Pirates end their seven-game losing streak his last time out.

Though he didn't get a win, Cole tossed seven innings against Atlanta, allowing two runs, five hits and struck out six in his first showing since July 4.

"He had four pitches to go to tonight, very efficient work," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Really good to see him out on the mound."

Pirates: Polanco sent down amidst slump
The Pirates sent rookie Gregory Polanco, who had one hit in his last 30 at-bats, back to Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday. Outfielder Jose Tabata was recalled to take his spot on the 25-man roster.

It's only a temporary move, as Hurdle said the plan is to get Polanco back on Sept. 2, the day after Indianapolis' season draws to a close. But in the next week, the team is hoping Polanco can rediscover the swing that got his much-anticipated rookie campaign off to an 11-game hitting streak.

"The timing is off on his swing, and I don't think the best way to spend the next week is to be sitting on the bench every day, Hurdle said of Polanco, who turns 23 next month.

"We'll give him the opportunity to get down, get some at-bats, get out of the spotlight that's been here for a week and find his way. I believe he will and come back and help this ballclub in September in a very positive fashion."

Cardinals: Shorter swing aiding Taveras
Oscar Taveras' rookie season has seen its ups and downs at the plate. Recently, though, the right fielder has been getting on base with more consistency, and his manager is crediting that to a shorter swing.

Taveras, 22, matched a career-best by hitting safely in six consecutive games in the last week -- a streak that was halted with an 0-for-4 showing on Monday. Taveras is hitting .343 in his last 10 games, and 10 of his 12 hits in that span have been singles.

"He's worked real hard to shorten up his swing. I think we've all seen that," Matheny said. "At times, it was getting a little long. It's been a fun process to watch how open he's been once he got to that point where he realized that he had to make some adjustments. [Assistant hitting coach] David [Bell] and [hitting coach] John [Mabry] both have been doing a great job of presenting him with as much as he can handle at the time. It's been clicking."

Worth noting
• Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez has three homers in his last three games (10 at-bats). Before the power surge, he had three homers in his last 42 games (113 at-bats).

• The Cardinals are 14-9 in August. The 14 victories are more than they had in July and match their total from June. St. Louis has not won more than 15 games in any month this season.

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