Coming off a rout of Cincinnati in their first game since the All-Star slugger was injured, the Cardinals look for a fifth consecutive victory while trying to sweep the Reds on Thursday night at Great American Ball Park.
St. Louis (40-27) beat Cincinnati 10-0 Wednesday night hours after learning that Pujols will miss at least three weeks with a strained calf suffered in a 7-2 win Tuesday.
“The first indication is that it’s not the scenario that would have kept him out for six weeks to two months,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said of Pujols, who is batting .347 with 16 homers and 42 RBIs. “We’re holding our breath.”
The Cardinals, winners of 10 of their last 13, could have enough to hold their own in Pujols’ absence. St. Louis, 2 1/2 games back of first-place Chicago in the NL Central, is among the league leaders with 320 runs and a .274 team batting average.
“You can’t control what happens,” said St. Louis catcher Jason LaRue, who also homered Wednesday. “It’s a big hit (losing Pujols), but this team is capable of winning without him.”
Ludwick, batting .321 on the season, is 8-for-16 with three homers and nine RBIs in his last four contests. He has two homers and six RBIs in five games versus Cincinnati (31-36) in 2008.
The Cardinals will try to continue their success at the plate while facing Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo (4-5, 5.74 ERA) on Thursday.
Arroyo hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in either of his last two starts and allowed four runs with seven hits in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-7 loss at Florida on Saturday, but didn’t factor in the decision.
“I couldn’t throw the ball over the plate,” Arroyo told the Reds’ official Web site.
The right-hander is 4-5 with a 4.23 ERA in 13 starts versus St. Louis and went six innings for the win in a 4-3 road victory over the Cardinals on April 28.
St. Louis is expected to place Pujols on the disabled list and activate right-hander Joel Pineiro (2-3, 4.50) to start Thursday in place of Adam Wainwright, who was disabled because of a sprained middle finger.
Pineiro hasn’t pitched since May 20 because of a groin strain, but is 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA in two career starts against Cincinnati. He allowed one hit in seven scoreless innings of a 7-2 win over the Reds on April 29.
“Pineiro feels 100 percent,” La Russa told the team’s official Web site. “He’s ready, and we need him. It’s a good combination.”
Jay Bruce, Paul Janish and Ken Griffey Jr. combined for the three hits the Reds managed against St. Louis starter Braden Looper on Wednesday. The rookie Bruce has hit safely in five of his last six contests and is hitting .381 in 16 games since being called up from Triple-A Louisville on May 27.
St. Louis is looking for its first sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati since May 2-4, 2005.