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The Big Series

Oakland Athletics at St. Louis Cardinals
The Big Stakes: Two streaking first place teams go at it; Oakland (37-25) leads the AL West, St. Louis (37-27) heads the NL Central.

The Big Matchup: The A's Rich Harden vs. the Cardinals' Jason Marquis, on Wednesday.

The Big Strategy in Game 2: The Athletics' hitters diligently made Marquis work; eight of the first nine batters took the first two pitches in their at-bats, and Marquis threw 39 pitches in the first two innings. But then he settled in.

The Big Bomb: Jim Edmonds slammed an 0-2 pitch off Rich Harden -- a 98 mph fastball -- for a solo home run in the second inning.

The Big Numbers: The opponents' batting average month to month against Harden was .290 in April, .252 in May, .217 in June. He is 3-1 in eight starts over the last two months.

The Big Hit: The Cardinals' Marlon Anderson had a pinch-hit two-run single on Tuesday, spurring a five-run rally in the seventh inning as St. Louis won the first game of the three-game series.

The Big Question: Can Albert Pujols stay healty? The Cards' first baseman returned to the lineup Tuesday, and drove in two runs.

The Big Waste: The Athletics' Bobby Crosby went 4-for-4 Tuesday, increasing his batting average to .273 in Oakland's loss.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," will be released later this summer, and can be pre-ordered through HarperCollins.com.