After dominating the opposition for most of the second half, the St. Louis Cardinals are now in danger of losing a second straight series.
Following a 9-2 loss to Philadelphia on July 26, St. Louis was 53-48 and one-half game behind the first-place Cubs in the Central. The Cardinals (85-61) started a three-game win streak the next day on their way to a 32-13 surge that has put them in position to win the division for the fourth time in six seasons.
St. Louis had won 11 of 13 before getting swept in three straight by Atlanta over the weekend, but bounced back to win the opener of this three-game set 11-6 on Monday. Despite another stellar outing from Adam Wainwright(notes), the Cardinals’ offense was shut down Tuesday night by Sean West(notes) in a 2-1 loss.
“I don’t like our lineup against anybody if we help the pitcher as much as we did tonight,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
With their fourth defeat in five games, the Cardinals’ magic number for clinching the Central remained 10 while their lead in the division dwindled to 8 1/2 games over the Cubs.
St. Louis hasn’t lost consecutive series since June 22-28, to the Mets and Minnesota.
Florida (77-68) stayed seven games behind Philadelphia in the East, but pulled within 4 1/2 of Colorado for the wild card.
Having Pineiro (14-10, 3.21 ERA) on the mound gives the Cardinals an excellent opportunity to take this series. St. Louis is 33-8 since July 1 in starts by the big three of Chris Carpenter(notes), Wainwright and Pineiro, who was 8-0 with a 3.09 ERA in 12 starts before a tough-luck 1-0 loss to Atlanta on Friday.
Pineiro has been especially good at home, going 7-5 with a 2.52 ERA in 13 starts at Busch Stadium. His teammates, however, have supported him with an average of only 3.68 runs in those outings.
Pineiro beat the Marlins 4-2 in his only previous appearance against them Aug. 11, 2008, yielding one earned run and seven hits in seven innings.
Josh Johnson(notes) (14-4, 3.06) gets the ball for the Marlins looking to continue the best season of his career. The Florida ace has already set personal bests in wins, starts, innings and strikeouts and has won 19 of his last 23 decisions dating to the end of 2008.
He was limited to five innings for the second consecutive start Friday, allowing two runs and two hits with four walks and eight strikeouts before leaving without a decision in the Marlins’ 5-3 loss to Washington.
Johnson is 0-1 with a 3.95 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals.