Pittsburgh (53-82) at St. Louis (72-61)

Light Rain Currently: St. Louis, MO
Temp: 36° F
  • Game info: 7:15 pm EDT Sat Sep 2, 2006
  • TV: KPLR
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After nearly falling out of first place in the NL Central last week, the St. Louis Cardinals are playing their best baseball since the All-Star break.

The Cardinals look to win their fourth straight game for the first time in six weeks when they continue their three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on Saturday.

After being swept by the NL-leading New York Mets at Shea Stadium Aug. 22-24, St. Louis (72-61) fell into a virtual tie with Cincinnati for the NL Central lead.

The Cardinals then returned to Busch Stadium, and have won six of seven on their nine-game homestand to take a five-game lead over the Reds in the division.

Chris Carpenter pitched a three-hitter as St. Louis defeated the Pirates 3-1 on Friday.

St. Louis has won all four home meetings with Pittsburgh (53-82) this season, and has not won four consecutive games overall since July 19-23.

With Albert Pujols batting just .154 (4-for-26) with a homer and two RBIs during the first seven games of their homestand, the Cardinals offense has been getting a boost from some unlikely sources.

Juan Encarnacion had two hits and an RBI in the series opener against the Pirates, and is batting .550 (11-for-20) in his last five games.

Preston Wilson hit a solo homer on Friday, and has four home runs and eight RBIs in 12 games since signing as a free agent with St. Louis on Aug. 18. Wilson had just four homers in his final 52 games with Houston.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Wilson said. “I’m having a great time. I’m very glad I’m here.”

Jeff Weaver (2-3, 5.92 ERA) takes the ball for the Cardinals on Saturday seeking his first win since Aug. 7. After allowing five runs over three starts from Aug. 7-17, Weaver has allowed five runs in each of his last outings.

The right-hander also gave up seven hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings of a 10-6 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, not factoring in the decision.

Weaver, who was traded from the Los Angeles Angels on July 5, is 0-2 with a 8.14 ERA in four starts at home since joining St. Louis, allowing at least five runs in three of those starts.

He is 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA in six career starts against the Pirates, with his only loss coming in his only start against them as a Cardinal. He allowed three runs and 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 3-2 defeat on Aug. 12.

Pittsburgh’s loss on Friday ensured the team its 14th consecutive losing season, the longest stretch of futility in major American pro sports.

“We’ve got this big streak looming over our heads but we do have the talent to turn it around,” Friday’s losing pitcher Zach Duke said. “I think we’re going to get there, just apparently not this year.”

Shawn Chacon (1-2, 7.88) starts Saturday, and has alternated good and bad outings in four starts since the New York Yankees traded him to the Pirates on July 31.

He has allowed one run in five innings in two of his starts, but has given up a combined 14 runs in six innings in his two losses.

The right-hander gave up seven runs, six hits and four walks in 4 1-3 innings of a 13-1 loss to Houston on Sunday.

“It was definitely a rough day,” said Chacon, who has walked 17 in 16 innings with Pittsburgh. “The walks are what killed me. I gave up some hits with runners on base that I put on (with walks). That’s what really hurt.

“Today, I was garbage.”

Chacon has yet to record a decision in four career games against the Cardinals, allowing seven runs in 13 2-3 innings.

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Starting Pitchers

S. Chacon Oak vs. J. Weaver LAD
7-6 Record 8-14
6.36 ERA 5.76
62 K 107
63 BB 47
1.72 WHIP 1.51

Scoreboard

Saturday, Sep 2