A long losing streak near the end of last season didn’t stop the St. Louis Cardinals from losing momentum en route to a World Series title. That team, however, wasn’t fighting to move into playoff position.
The Cardinals look to snap a season-high six-game losing streak and avoid being swept in Cincinnati for the first time in over four years when they conclude a three-game set with the Reds on Thursday.
St. Louis lost seven straight from Sept. 20-26 last season and almost blew a large lead in the NL Central, but ended up winning the division and the World Series. Now, the Cardinals (69-74) have fallen four games behind Milwaukee and the Chicago Cubs in the division, making this an inopportune time for a long losing streak.
St. Louis, which has 19 games remaining in the regular season, is in danger of being swept in Cincinnati (66-79) in a series longer than two games for the first time since dropping a four-game set from May 5-8, 2003.
“What am I going to do, yell and scream at them?” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after a 5-1 loss to the Reds on Wednesday night. “I don’t see anyone not trying. We all share the responsibility.”
Wells is coming off a rare relief appearance, allowing one run and two hits in four innings of a 6-5 loss to Arizona on Sunday. The veteran right-hander, though, has lost three straight starts, posting a 10.80 ERA in that span.
Wells is 2-9 with a 4.80 ERA in 18 starts and a relief appearance against the Reds. The Cardinals have given him no runs of support in each of his last two starts, and just two in the outing before that.
Cincinnati will counter with Aaron Harang (14-4, 3.64 ERA), who has been one of the league’s top pitchers.
In his last start, the right-hander gave up two runs and seven hits while striking out seven in seven innings of a 4-3 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday night.
Harang is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals this season, and 3-3 with a 4.78 ERA in eight career starts against them.
Gonzalez, who was playing his first game after missing two with a sore shin, appeared to injure his left knee while trying to beat out a grounder in the third inning Wednesday. Jeff Keppinger would likely start for Gonzalez, who is batting .275 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs.
Hamilton, meanwhile, left after aggravating a strained right hamstring while trying to beat out a grounder in the fifth. Norris Hopper will probably start in center field if Hamilton can’t play.
Hamilton is batting. 295 with 19 home runs and 47 RBIs in just 295 at-bats.
The Reds, though, have been getting strong hitting from third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who homered and drove in three runs Wednesday. He is batting .385 (37-for-96) with five home runs, nine doubles and 21 RBIs in his last 25 games.
“It’s good to see him swinging the bat well,” Cincinnati interim manager Pete Mackanin told the team’s official Web site. “He looks so comfortable at the plate. You could tell that he’s where he wants to be.”