The St. Louis Cardinals closed July with a season high-tying win streak that gave them their first winning month of the year.
In their first game of August on Wednesday, they’ll go for their fifth straight victory in the middle game of a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
St. Louis (50-53) won its last four games of July, the first time it’s taken four in a row since April 8-11. The run helped the Cardinals finish the month with a 15-11 record, matching their 15-11 mark from last July - the last month they finished above .500.
“If we don’t come out and have a winning week, then all it was was an exciting weekend,” manager Tony La Russa told the Cardinals’ official Web site. “If we go out and generate some wins, then that has more significance.”
The Cardinals extended the streak Tuesday with a 6-4 victory in the series opener, improving to 7-2 against the Pirates this season. St. Louis has won four straight against Pittsburgh since back-to-back losses April 16-17.
“We’re playing hard right now,” said outfielder Ryan Ludwick. “It’s fun, a lot of fun.”
Scott Rolen went 2-for-4 with two runs Tuesday and is 8-for-18 (.444) with seven runs and four RBIs in his last six games. Rolen is a career .332 hitter against the Pirates, and is batting .375 (9-for-24) against them this year.
The Cardinals will put their win streak on the line with Braden Looper (8-8, 4.85 ERA) on the mound. The right-hander, who held the Chicago Cubs to one run and five hits in seven innings of an 11-1 victory Thursday, hasn’t won back-to-back starts since May 6-12.
He has a good shot at consecutive victories, however, if he can continue his dominance of the Pirates. Looper entered this season with a 2.03 ERA in 23 relief appearances against them, and has posted a 0.69 ERA in winning both his starts over Pittsburgh this year.
Tuesday’s loss was the 14th in 16 games since the All-Star break for the NL-worst Pirates (42-62), who lost their last four games of July.
Things got worse for the Pirates in Tuesday’s fourth inning when outfielder Xavier Nady was removed from the game with a hamstring injury. Nady, batting .325 over his last 31 games, missed nearly two weeks earlier this season with a hamstring strain.
Hoping to bounce back Wednesday, the Pirates will send Tony Armas (0-3, 6.93) to the mound for his first start since May 17. The right-hander was 0-3 with an 8.46 ERA in seven starts before moving to the bullpen, where he posted a 4.98 ERA in 13 appearances.
He gave up a run and three hits in 1 2-3 innings of Pittsburgh’s 8-1 loss at Philadelphia on Friday.
“It feels good to just come back and pitch like before - not like how the season started, but like I did (in years past),” said Armas, 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA in six career games - five starts - against the Cardinals. “I just want to finish up strong in these last two months and hopefully have some good games.”
Armas rejoins a starting rotation that was bolstered by Tuesday’s addition of Matt Morris, who came to the Pirates from San Francisco in a trade for rookie outfielder Rajai Davis and a player to be named. Morris, who will be 33 on Aug. 9, was a 22-game winner for St. Louis in 2001. He’s 7-7 with a 4.35 ERA this season.
“He’s been very productive and played for winners, and I think he will be effective in a rotation with a lot of young guys - a veteran, experienced guy who will help us out a great deal,” Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said.