Cincinnati (33-24) at St. Louis (35-22)

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  • Game info: 8:10 pm EDT Tue Jun 6, 2006
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With no timetable for star Albert Pujols’ return, the St. Louis Cardinals will at least get ace Chris Carpenter back as they continue their three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday at Busch Stadium.

An MRI on Pujols’ injured back Monday proved inconclusive after the slugger suffered a muscle strain on his right side against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday.

St. Louis has no idea when Pujols will return, and the most pessimistic reports have him out until the All-Star break.

“It could be two weeks, it could be three, four, five or six,” said Pujols, who leads the majors with 25 homers and 65 RBIs. “Whatever weeks it’s going to be, I’m going to take my time. It’s terrible, but what can I do? I don’t want to shoot myself.”

The Cardinals (35-22) have split two games since the injury, including a heartbreaking 8-7 loss to Cincinnati (33-24) in Monday’s series opener.

St. Louis led 7-5 going into the ninth inning before Ken Griffey Jr. hit a go-ahead three-run homer, his second home run of the night, off Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen.

“He’s the one guy we’ve got that has a chance to hit outstanding pitching no matter who it is,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “There are a lot of guys that get numbers off mediocre guys, and this is a guy that has never done that.

“He’s gotten numbers off everybody.”

Now, the Cardinals will turn to their ace to try and help them win consecutive games for the first time since May 23-24.

The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, Carpenter (4-2, 2.63 ERA) was placed on the DL on May 22 with bursitis in his back.

After throwing a bullpen session last week, he said he was ready to go.

“I threw everything, all of my pitches,” Carpenter said. “It was longer, and I definitely felt good. As long as tomorrow there’s nothing affecting me, no soreness, nothing like that, I’ll be fine.”

He hasn’t pitched since May 19, when he gave up six runs and nine hits in six innings, but beat Kansas City 9-6.

Carpenter lost to Cincinnati 1-0 on April 14 despite allowing only four hits and the lone run in eight innings. The right-hander is 2-2 with a 1.81 ERA in six career starts against the Reds.

Besides helping the Reds win their fifth straight game, Griffey also tied a major league record by homering in his 43rd stadium. The outfielder, who finished with six RBIs, has a homer in every existing stadium and tied Fred McGriff’s record.

“I knew coming in here this was the last one,” Griffey said. “It’s just one of those things that happened, and I’m glad it’s over with.”

All of Cincinnati’s wins during the streak have come on the road. The Reds are 5-2 on their nine-game trip.

Cincinnati will turn to Eric Milton (3-2, 4.89) on Tuesday as it tries to match its season-best six-game winning streak, set from April 23-29.

Milton beat the Cubs 3-2 on Wednesday, his first victory since April 13, when he also beat Chicago. He allowed six hits and two runs in seven innings.

The left-hander has allowed only three total earned runs in his last two starts, lowering his ERA from 7.04.

Milton is 1-0 with a 4.41 ERA in three career starts against St. Louis.

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Starting Pitchers

E. Milton LAD vs. C. Carpenter STL
8-8 Record 15-8
5.19 ERA 3.09
90 K 184
42 BB 43
1.34 WHIP 1.07