Pittsburgh (56-69) at St. Louis (70-57)

Cloudy Currently: St. Louis, MO
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 8:15 pm EDT Tue Aug 19, 2008
  • TV: FSPI, FSMW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

In his second season as a starting pitcher, Braden Looper is becoming one of the St. Louis Cardinals’ most reliable hurlers.

He’ll try to match his career high in wins Tuesday night when the Cardinals face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a two-game set.

Looper (11-9, 4.07 ERA) spent his first nine seasons in the majors as a reliever, compiling 103 saves with Florida and the New York Mets. The right-hander had his option declined by the Mets after a disappointing 2005 season and signed with the Cardinals (70-57), becoming a solid contributor out of their bullpen and helping them win the 2006 World Series.

The following year, Looper was converted to a starter and went 12-12 with a 4.94 ERA.

He’s improved in that role this season and has been excellent of late, allowing two runs or less in five consecutive starts and lasting seven innings in four straight.

Looper, second on the team in wins and innings (148 1-3), beat Florida on Wednesday as he yielded two runs - one earned - and five hits with five strikeouts in a 6-4 win.

“Right now, I feel as good physically as I have all year,” Looper told the Cards’ official Web site. “I’m in a good spot, where I can go out there and make my pitches every time.

“I could throw it for strikes on both sides of the plate.”

Looper, who has walked just four batters in his last 28 innings, is 3-1 with a 4.37 ERA in four starts against the Pirates (56-69).

He’ll try to help the Cardinals rebound from Sunday’s 7-3 loss at Cincinnati, during which the bullpen allowed four runs in two innings as the team’s four-game winning streak ended.

St. Louis has alternated wins and losses through 12 meetings with Pittsburgh this year. The Cards, though, won the teams’ last three-game series on the road from July 11-13.

Ryan Ludwick was impressive in that series, going 6-for-15 (.400) with a triple, three homers and six RBIs. The right fielder enters this series on a hot streak, going 7-for-18 (.389) with three doubles, two homers and six RBIs over the last six games.

Ludwick, though, is hitless in six career at-bats with four strikeouts against Ian Snell (4-10, 5.91 ERA), who goes to the mound for Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Though he’s shut down Ludwick, Snell is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in four starts against St. Louis this season.

The right-hander’s last three outings have all resulted in losses for the Pirates, but he’s received only four total runs of support. He has provided quality starts in his last two games, only to suffer losses to Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

Snell was shaky at times Thursday, allowing five walks and six hits in six innings, but he held the Reds to two runs in the 3-1 loss.

“He had much more life on the ball and was down in the zone much better,” Pirates manager John Russell told the team’s official Web site. “It was a nice game for him.”

Russell’s club snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the New York Mets on Monday.

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Starting Pitchers

I. Snell LAD vs. B. Looper ChC
7-12 Record 12-14
5.42 ERA 4.16
135 K 108
89 BB 45
1.76 WHIP 1.31

Scoreboard

Tuesday, Aug 19