After having their nine-game home winning streak halted, the St. Louis Cardinals look for some improved play on the road.
The NL Central leaders open a seven-game trip Monday night when they face the Atlanta Braves in the opener of a three-game series.
The Cardinals (13-6) had their run at home end with a 10-3 loss to Chicago in Sunday’s finale of a three-game set.
“We got really good results,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of his club’s 5-1 homestand. “The way we look at it is what we put into it. Now we’ve got Atlanta and Washington and just keep doing what we’re doing as far as the effort and keep getting better.”
St. Louis will now attempt to rebound on the road, where it’s 3-3 with a 5.20 ERA. The team didn’t fare well away from Busch Stadium last season, winning only three of its last 16 to finish 40-41. Those struggles also contributed to the Cards missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year after winning their 10th World Series title in 2006.
The Cardinals, who begin a four-game series at Washington on Thursday, won five of seven meetings with the Braves (9-9) last year, including three of four at Atlanta from July 28-31.
They’ll turn to Joel Pineiro (3-0, 4.12 ERA), who is looking to improve to 4-0 to start a season for the first time since 2002 with Seattle. That season, however, the right-hander won his first four decisions with a 1.85 ERA over 13 appearances—four starts.
Pineiro’s early success in 2009 has come with the development of a new pitch, the sinker. He used it effectively Wednesday, yielding two runs and six hits in eight innings of a 5-2 win over the New York Mets. At one point during the victory, Pineiro retired 13 consecutive hitters, with 10 outs coming on ground balls.
“I’m going to trust it all year,” Pineiro told the Cards’ official Web site. “The first three to four pitches, if you get them to put the ball in play, your pitch count is going to be low. So I’ll keep on riding that as long as I can.”
Pineiro, though, is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA and a save in five games—two starts—against Atlanta. He didn’t fare too well in his last start against them on July 31, allowing six runs and 10 hits in six innings of a 9-4 loss at Turner Field.
The Braves, who are coming off Sunday’s 8-2 loss at Cincinnati, return home for a six-game homestand seeking an end to a three-game slide there. They opened their home schedule with a three-game sweep of Washington from April 10-12, but followed that up by being swept by Florida from April 14-16.
Atlanta will give the ball to Jair Jurrjens (2-1, 1.42), who hopes for any sort of offensive help after not getting a win in his last two outings despite impressive performances.
The 23-year-old right-hander didn’t factor in the decision of Wednesday’s 1-0 win at Washington after scattering six hits in 7 2-3 innings. Jurrjens also limited Pittsburgh to one run and four hits while striking out seven in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-0 loss at Pittsburgh on April 17.
“You can’t pitch any better than that,” Braves manager Bobby Cox told the club’s official Web site after the win over the Nationals.
Jurrjens lost his only start against St. Louis on July 30, allowing three runs and seven hits in seven innings of a 7-2 defeat.