Hot-hitting Cardinals demolish Dodgers, find way to .500 mark

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The Cardinals’ offense was sputtering in a big way last week, with some asking if impending free agent Albert Pujols was pressing after getting off to the worst start of his career.

What a difference a week makes.

Pujols and Lance Berkman both homered twice in last night’s 11-2 drubbing of the Dodgers. Pujols has three home runs in the past two games and three multi-hit games in his past four. Can’t keep that guy down for long. Meanwhile, the suddenly resurgent Berkman has six home runs in last 19 at-bats. Only Troy Tulowitzki has hit more home runs so far this season.

And then we get to the Cardinals’ offense as a whole, which is currently producing at a historic level. Including their 19-hit performance against the Dodgers last night, they’ve collected at least 14 hits in each of their last five games. According to the Associated Press via NBCSports.com, the Cardinals haven’t done that since Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 1930, when they had 14 hits or more in six straight.

The Cardinals have won three in a row and five out of six, reaching the .500 mark (7-7) for the first time this season. They’ll try to stay hot tonight against left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who has a 1.37 ERA and 24/4 K/BB ratio over his first three starts this season. And that’s no easy task.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.