The St. Louis Cardinals haven’t been playing like the defending NL champions.
St. Louis looks to rebound from a poor performance in its first home series of the season when it begins a two-game set against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cardinals recorded a major league-leading 105 wins last year behind one of baseball’s top hitting lineups only to get swept by the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
St. Louis opened this season with a split at Houston in a rematch of last year’s NLCS and then won its home opener Friday without a big hit, 6-5 over the Philadelphia Phillies on two bases-loaded walks in the eighth inning.
The Cardinals continued to struggle with their hitting and lost the next two contests by a combined score of 23-8. They are batting .229 as a team this season.
The 13 runs were the most by a Cardinals’ opponent since Sept. 12, 2003, when the Astros beat them 14-5 in Houston.
After allowing only one run on four hits in seven innings in his season debut at Houston while retiring his last 13 batters, Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter lasted only 3 1-3 innings Sunday, giving up eight runs and 10 hits.
“They were on everything he threw,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “It wasn’t much of a contest.”
Cincinnati swept the New York Mets in its season-opening series to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 1990, but went on to lose three straight over the weekend in Houston.
The Reds allowed just 12 runs in the series, but managed to score only seven times.
“We would have liked to have had a better showing here,” said Reds slugger Adam Dunn, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI triple in Sunday’s 5-2 loss. “But it’s not the end of the world. We just couldn’t get the big hit at the right time, like we did the series before.”
STANDINGS (through April 10): Reds - 3rd place (tied), 1 1/2 GB, NL Central. Cardinals - 5th place, 2 GB, NL Central.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Aaron Harang (1-0, 0.00 ERA). The right-hander allowed only one single in 6 1-3 innings Thursday as the Reds beat the Mets 6-1. He is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Jason Marquis (0-0, 1.50 ERA). Marquis allowed one run and nine hits, struck out four and walked one over six innings in his season debut at Houston Wednesday. The right-hander went 9-5 with a 3.76 ERA in 18 starts at Busch Stadium last year.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Reds - Jason LaRue and Joe Randa, .400 avg.; Randa, 3 HRs, 8 RBIs and 6 runs; D’Angelo Jimenez, 1 SB. Cardinals - David Eckstein, .353 avg.; Reggie Sanders, 2 HRs; Jim Edmonds, 5 RBIs; Four with 3 runs; Pujols, 1 SB.
2004 SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 14-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Reds - 3B Randa has scored at least one run in five of the first six games this season. … 1B Sean Casey is batting .417 (5-for-12) against RHP Marquis. … Cincinnati went 2-7 at Busch Stadium last season. Cardinals - LF Sanders is 3-for-10 with two homers against RHP Harang. … 1B Pujols has yet to strike out in 20 plate appearances this season. He struck out a career-low 52 times in 592 at-bats last year. … RHP Jason Isringhausen had seven saves and a 1.64 ERA against Cincinnati last season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Reds - 0-3 on the road; Cardinals - 1-2 at home.
INJURIES: Reds - SS Anderson Machado (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Josh Hancock (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Hudson (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Jung Keun Bong (shoulder), 60-day DL; INF Ray Olmedo (elbow), 60-day DL. Cardinals - RHP Mike Lincoln (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Morris (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Bill Pulsipher (hamstring), day-to-day.