In order to surpass their rival this weekend, the Reds must improve their play against the Cardinals starting Friday night at Great American Ballpark.
Though Cincinnati opened 5-0 and St. Louis struggled to a 2-6 start, the Cardinals have a 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Reds.
The Cardinals (22-16) took two of three at home over the Reds (20-17) from April 22-24, and should be confident playing at Cincinnati after going 6-3 there in 2010. That included a three-game sweep Aug. 9-11, a series highlighted by a bench clearing brawl in the middle game of the set.
St. Louis has won eight of 10 overall versus Cincinnati.
“The last couple of years, we didn’t match up good against them,” manager Dusty Baker told the Reds’ official website.
St. Louis is coming off a 9-1 victory at Chicago on Thursday, winning for the fifth time in seven games. Matt Holliday(notes) was 2 for 4 with a homer, while Colby Rasmus(notes) and Yadier Molina(notes) each added three hits as the Cardinals bounced back from an 11-4 loss Wednesday to take two of three in the series.
Holliday leads the majors with a .390 average for a lineup hitting a major league-best .290.
“It’s definitely a lineup I don’t look forward to pitching to,” scheduled Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo(notes) said. “It’s tougher to nail that team down and get deep in the ballgame without a big situation coming up. It’s hard to tame that lineup.”
“You don’t have to remind me,” Baker said. “He’s hitting everybody right now. I knew he’d come back strong.”
Berkman is a .339 hitter at Great American Ballpark and batting .292 with five homers versus Arroyo (3-3, 3.68 ERA), who has an 8.22 ERA during a three-start losing streak against St. Louis.
The right-hander gave up only a solo homer in 7 1-3 innings but did not receive a decision in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs on Saturday.
St. Louis counters with Kyle Lohse(notes) (4-2, 2.24), who is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his last three starts versus Cincinnati - all at Busch Stadium. Lohse is 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA at Great American Ballpark.
The right-hander had his four-game winning streak snapped despite allowing one run in eight innings of a 4-0 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday.
Lohse faces a Reds team that had won three straight and six of seven before falling 4-3 in Houston on Wednesday.
Joey Votto(notes) is 3 for 9 versus Lohse and 5 for 9 with three RBIs over his last two games. Votto went 2 for 9 with a home run and a double in St. Louis last month, and he’s hit .182 with no homers and seven strikeouts in the last six matchups at Great American Ballpark.
St. Louis bench coach Joe Pettini will serve as acting manager for the second straight series while Tony La Russa continues to recover from a bout with shingles.