Sterling Hitchcock has been masterful in his two relief appearances for St. Louis. The Cardinals hope he flashes that same brilliance in a starting role.
The crafty left-hander makes his first start in a Cardinals uniform as St. Louis takes on the Cincinnati Reds in the decisive game of their series at Great American Ball Park.
“It’s an opportunity to start again, and I’ve been looking forward to that,” said Hitchcock, who has started just three games since the beginning of the 2002 season. “It’s what I’ve done most of my career and it’s what I enjoy doing.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
Acquired from the New York Yankees on Aug. 22 for two minor leaguers, Hitchcock is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his pair of relief appearances.
Used as the long man in the Yankees’ bullpen, Hitchcock didn’t receive a decision in his lone start for New York. He allowed three runs and five hits over six innings in the Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Aug. 16.
He replaces struggling right-hander Garrett Stephenson in the Cardinals’ rotation. Stephenson, who may pitch during the Cardinals’ upcoming five-game series with the Chicago Cubs, has surrendered 11 runs over his last seven innings.
St. Louis snapped a five-game losing streak at Cincinnati’s first-year ballpark with Saturday’s 6-3 win. Jim Edmonds drove in four runs with a homer and a double for the Cardinals, who remained tied with Houston for first place in the NL Central. The Astros beat San Diego 11-6 on Saturday.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 1st place (tied), NL Central. Reds - 5th place, 12 GB, NL Central.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Hitchcock (1-0, 1.50 ERA). In 10 career appearances against the Reds, including five starts, Hitchcock is 1-3 with an 8.26 ERA.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Dan Serafini (0-1, 7.20 ERA). Signed by the Reds out of the Mexican League, Serafini was hit hard in his season debut. The left-hander allowed four runs and seven hits over five innings in a 7-1 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday. The appearance was Serafini’s first in the majors since starting for Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 2000. He is 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA in two career starts against the Cardinals.
SEASON SERIES: Reds, 8-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - St. Louis activated 2B Fernando Vina and RHP Russ Springer from the DL on Saturday and optioned RHP Stephenson and RHP Dan Haren to Class A Palm Beach. Both will rejoin the team when rosters expand Monday. … Manager Tony La Russa needs five more wins for 2,000 in his career. … The Cardinals are second in the NL with 167 homers but are third in the league with 180 allowed. Reds - Cincinnati has been held to three runs or fewer in 19 of its last 25 games. … C Jason LaRue has been hit by a pitch 18 times this season, two shy of Frank Robinson’s 1956 club record. … RHP Jimmy Haynes, 2-12 with a 6.30 ERA, won’t pitch for the Reds again this season because of a bulging disc in his back.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 31-36 on the road; Reds - 31-39 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - C Joe Girardi (back), 15-day DL; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; OF J.D. Drew (oblique), 15-day DL; OF Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Jimmy Journell (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Lance Painter (calf), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Reds - SS Barry Larkin (finger), 15-day DL; INF Brandon Larson (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF Dunn (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Acevedo (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Ryan Dempster (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Haynes (back), 15-day DL; LHP Mark Watson (kidney), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Ken Griffey Jr. (ankle), 60-day DL; OF Austin Kearns (shoulder), 60-day DL; OF Reggie Taylor (shoulder), 60-day DL.