Though the St. Louis Cardinals have again fallen behind in the race for the NL Central lead, they have to like their chances to reclaim a share of the top spot with Chris Carpenter(notes) taking the mound against the first-place Cincinnati Reds.
Carpenter looks to win his eighth consecutive start against the Reds as the top teams in the Central close a three-game series Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
These teams have split the first two games of this series, with Cincinnati (31-22) remaining one game ahead in the division.
St. Louis (30-23) has every reason to be confident it can grab the series win and a tie for first place with Carpenter (6-1, 2.93 ERA) scheduled to start the finale.
The right-hander has posted a 1.08 ERA while winning seven straight starts against Cincinnati dating to Aug. 15, 2006. With that streak, he has improved to 9-3 with a 2.03 ERA in 15 career starts against the Reds, including 5-2 with a 1.66 ERA in St. Louis.
Carpenter, who’s 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in six home starts this season, held an opponent to two runs or fewer for the seventh time in 11 starts Friday, allowing one run in 6 2-3 innings of a 7-1 win over the Chicago Cubs.
“He’s an extremely hard worker,” Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick(notes) told the team’s official website. “He’s the ultimate competitor. I’m not Carp, but I’m assuming he hates to lose. When he’s on, he’s unhittable. When he’s off, he’s still pretty unhittable.”
Many Reds players would agree. Second baseman Brandon Phillips(notes), batting .346 with three homers and 12 runs scored over his last 12 games, is 4 for 24 in his career against Carpenter. Jay Bruce(notes) is 2 for 13 against him, while Orlando Cabrera(notes) is 3 for 21.
Votto missed six straight games with a sore neck before returning Tuesday night and going 4 for 5 with a home run and three runs scored as the Reds topped the Cardinals 9-8. Scott Rolen(notes) added three hits, including two homers, as the Reds avoided their first three-game losing streak since a five-game skid April 14-18.
“I think this year we’ve proven to other people and proven to ourselves that no lead is safe,” Votto said. “We have to respect the opposition and play hard all the way through nine innings.”
Cincinnati will hand the ball to Sam LeCure(notes) for his second career start. The right-hander from Jefferson City, Mo., won his major league debut Friday, holding Houston to two runs in six innings of a 15-6 victory.
“Any time that you’re able to not just get to the big leagues, but get a win, and it’s against the team in your division, it’s a big night for everybody,” LeCure told the Reds’ official website.
Ludwick missed Tuesday’s game with a thumb injury but could return for the finale as St. Louis tries to improve to 9-0-1 in its last 10 home series against Cincinnati.