St. Louis (78-72) has slipped into fourth place in the competitive NL Central, but Pujols still has time to bolster his case to win his first MVP award since 2005. The slugger has hit safely in 23 of his last 26 games, batting .416 with 13 multihit efforts in that span.
He’s been effective against Cincinnati (69-81) all season, going 11-for-31 (.356), but saw a 10-game hitting streak end with an 0-for-4 effort in Tuesday’s 7-2 loss - the Cardinals’ sixth straight.
Pujols is also batting .359 (14-for-39) in his career against Harang with two home runs, including 2-for-5 with a homer this year.
This losing streak has effectively taken St. Louis out of contention for a playoff spot. The Cardinals, who have 12 games left, have been eliminated from NL Central title contention and are five games behind the New York Mets for the NL wild card.
They have scored a total of only 17 runs in their last six games and had six hits in Tuesday’s loss.
“This was the kind of game where both pitchers were sharp and you couldn’t afford to make a mistake,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
St. Louis got a bit of a boost with the return of Troy Glaus, who had missed five straight games with a shoulder injury. Glaus went 2-for-4 with a solo homer in the loss.
Harang (4-16, 4.96 ERA), meanwhile, is enduring a miserable season after winning 16 games each of the two previous years. He’s pitched particularly poorly within the division, going 1-9 with a 6.14 ERA in 13 outings against NL Central foes, including 0-2 with a 10.61 ERA in two starts versus St. Louis.
The right-hander is winless in his last four outings, but has pitched better, going 0-3 with a 3.00 ERA. He allowed four runs - one earned - in seven innings Friday in a 3-2 loss to Arizona’s Brandon Webb.
St. Louis starter Todd Wellemeyer (12-7, 3.63) tries to continue his strong work on the road, where he is 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA in 13 outings this year. This will be his first career start at Great American Ball Park.
The right-hander lost for the third time in four starts last Thursday by yielding two unearned runs in five innings in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Wellemeyer also dropped his lone start against the Reds this year on April 28, surrendering four runs in six innings of a 4-3 loss.