Led by their top two longball threats, the Cardinals head into their final series of 2008 starting on Friday night at Busch Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds.
For seven years beginning in 2001, Pujols averaged 40 homers a season. Coming into this game, he has 35—one fewer than Ludwick, who totaled that many from 2002-07.
Ludwick is hitting a team-best .357 (15-for-42) with three homers and nine RBIs, but also has struck out a team-high 12 times against Cincinnati (74-85) this year. Pujols, meanwhile has homered four times off Reds pitchers, tying the injured Rick Ankiel for the team lead.
After being eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday, St. Louis (83-76) has yet to lose. The Cardinals won their third in a row, and ended Arizona’s playoff hopes with a 12-3 rout on Thursday as Pujols and Ludwick hit back-to-back homers during a five-run seventh inning,
St. Louis improved to 8-0 when the two have gone deep.
The Reds, making their first visit to St. Louis since late April, are 5-7 against the Cardinals this season. Over the last two years, Cincinnati has dropped seven of nine on the road to its NL Central rivals.
Dusty Baker’s team also is looking to close the season on a strong note. The Reds dropped two of three to the Astros with an 8-6 defeat on Thursday.
After being held to a run and two hits over the first eight innings, Cincinnati made things interesting with five in the ninth, capped by a three-run homer from Jerry Hairston.
Arroyo got the win in their first meeting on Sept. 16, allowing two solo homers among five hits over seven innings of a 7-2 victory. Looper also went seven innings, and gave up four runs and six hits.
Each pitcher lost his next start after that. Facing Milwaukee on Sunday, Arroyo lasted six innings and was tagged for six runs and six hits in an 8-1 loss.
“Once we got behind, we couldn’t dig ourselves out of it,” said Arroyo, 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA in four starts this season against the Cardinals.
Looper, meanwhile, will make his sixth attempt to set a new career high for wins.
Since beating Atlanta on Aug. 24, the right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.16 ERA in five starts. Looper dropped his third consecutive start on Sunday, allowing four runs and nine hits over six innings in a 5-1 defeat to the Cubs in Chicago.
Looper, who also won 12 games for St. Louis last year in his first season as a starter, is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three career starts at Busch Stadium against the Reds.