A day after clinching the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals ran into a team that’s fighting for a playoff spot. Their next opponent is also playing hard despite not having the same motivation.
The Cardinals look to get back on track and make a late push for home-field advantage in the NL playoffs when they take on the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
St. Louis (90-66) lost 4-3 to Colorado on Sunday, one day after wrapping up its seventh Central title in 10 years. The Rockies are trying to hold off hard-charging Atlanta for the wild card.
St. Louis, Los Angeles and Philadelphia are vying for the best record in the league going into the final week. The Cardinals should have a chance to make up ground, with their final six games coming against sub-.500 teams Cincinnati and Milwaukee.
St. Louis will hand the ball to Joel Pineiro(notes) (15-11, 3.24 ERA), who looks to follow up an outstanding start against another NL Central also-ran. The right-hander pitched seven innings of one-run ball to defeat Houston 11-2 last Tuesday as he avoided dropping a third straight start.
Pineiro, who gave up one run over seven innings for the second time in three outings, has pitched well in his career against Cincinnati, going 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA in six starts. He has faced them twice this season, going 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA, and threw seven innings and gave up two earned runs in a 7-4 win July 3.
The Cardinals held catcher Yadier Molina(notes) (sore knee) and outfielder Matt Holliday(notes) (sickness) out of the lineup for precautionary reasons Sunday. Molina, hobbled after being struck on the left knee by a foul ball the day before, will be re-evaluated in Cincinnati and may be out until later in the series.
“I think there’s probably a guy or two who would not have played” if Sunday’s game had not been against a contender, manager Tony La Russa told the team’s official Web site. “We’re still trying to win the games, and we’re still trying to get home field, but I think there are a couple guys that were pushed in there.”
Holliday, uncertain to play Tuesday, is 7 for 12 with a double, triple and two RBIs against the Reds this year.
While Cincinnati isn’t going to the postseason, it has been red-hot of late. The Reds (74-82) had a six-game winning streak snapped Sunday, falling 3-2 to the Astros.
“We were having a losing season before we went on this run,” manager Dusty Baker told the team’s official Web site. “That’s not important now. What’s important now is continuing to play well and to finish strong. We have to keep playing the way we had been playing.”
The right-hander has struggled badly against St. Louis, going 0-3 with a 9.82 ERA in four career starts. He did pitch well when he opposed Pineiro on July 3 at Great American Ball Park, throwing 7 1-3 innings and giving up two runs. He didn’t get the decision.