St. Louis (75-64) at Arizona (65-75)

Fair Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 38° F
  • Game info: 9:40 pm EDT Fri Sep 8, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The St. Louis Cardinals are enjoying their largest lead of the season in the NL Central, but may wish they played more often against the NL West.

The Cardinals look to continue their domination over the Arizona Diamondbacks when their four-game series resumes on Friday.

St. Louis (75-64) defeated the Diamondbacks 6-2 on Thursday, improving to 15-4 in their last 19 meetings against them. The Cardinals also have won nine of their last 10 at Chase Field, outscoring Arizona 67-29.

The Cardinals have opened a 6 1/2 -game lead in the NL Central thanks to an impressive record against the NL West. They are 20-6 versus the West, winning 13 of their last 14 matchups.

After this contest, St. Louis will play eight of its final 22 games against NL West foes.

Scott Spiezio, who started at third base for the second straight game in place of Scott Rolen, homered twice in Thursday’s win.

Spiezio was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer Wednesday in a 7-6 loss to Washington.

“I’ve done it in the past here and there,” Spiezio said of his backup role. “I’ve had some time where I learned how to do it. As you get older, you learn more and know what you need to do to get it done.”

Albert Pujols had two singles on Thursday, and is batting .455 (10-for-22) with five home runs and seven RBIs during a six-game hitting streak. Pujols also is hitting .348 (8-for-23) with a home run and two RBIs in his career against Livan Hernandez (10-12, 5.24 ERA), who starts for Arizona on Friday.

Hernandez has struggled since being acquired from Washington on Aug. 7, losing his last three starts and going 1-4 with a 4.84 ERA in five starts with Arizona (65-75).

He has allowed 12 runs in 20 2-3 innings during his skid, and is in danger of losing four straight starts for the first time since June 18-July 3, 2002 while with San Francisco.

Hernandez allowed four runs and 11 hits in 7 2-3 innings of a 4-3 loss to the Nationals in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday. He yielded one run through seven innings before giving up two home runs in the eighth.

“He threw the ball about as well about as you can throw it,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “He was our best guy out there at the time. He felt good. He threw one bad pitch.”

Hernandez is 4-5 with a 4.58 ERA in 14 career appearances against the Cardinals.

St. Louis counters with rookie Anthony Reyes (5-6, 4.31), who looked sharp in his return to the Cardinals’ rotation after being sent to Triple-A Memphis for two weeks.

Reyes had a career-high nine strikeouts and allowed four hits in 6 1-3 scoreless innings of a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday in his longest outing since June 22.

“He’s pitched really well in several of his starts, but this was a big one,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “This is September now, the end is in sight.”

Reyes, who has replaced the injured Mark Mulder in the rotation, has never faced the Diamondbacks.

Arizona has lost eight of its last nine games, and has fallen a season-worst 10 games under .500.

Luis Gonzalez homered and hit his 47th double Thursday, matching his club record set in 2000. He’s batting .406 (13-for-32) with five homers in his last eight games against the Cardinals.

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Starting Pitchers

A. Reyes Cle vs. L. Hernández Mil
5-8 Record 13-13
5.06 ERA 4.83
72 K 128
34 BB 78
1.38 WHIP 1.50

Scoreboard

Friday, Sep 8