With 25 games remaining, the St. Louis Cardinals still have faint hopes of playing beyond the regular season.
The Cardinals (73-64) drew within 7 1/2 games of NL Central-leading Milwaukee after completing a three-game sweep of the majors’ best home team with an 8-4 victory Wednesday.
“We just came here to try to win the series,” manager Tony La Russa said. “…Taking three games out of three is awesome. We just need to flip the page and be ready to play tomorrow with Cincinnati.”
The Cardinals are 5-7 against the Reds in 2011, but 4-2 at home.
St. Louis will be keeping a close eye on the scoreboard - and the standings - throughout the weekend. While the Cardinals and Reds tangle, the Brewers are at major league-worst Houston before coming to Busch Stadium on Monday afternoon to play the final three games of the season series.
First, the Cardinals will face Cueto (9-5, 2.05 ERA), who also has the NL’s lowest opponent batting average at .209. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 1.19 ERA in three starts against St. Louis this season.
Despite a career-high 11 strikeouts in seven innings Monday, Cueto failed to get a decision for a second straight start as the Reds beat Washington 5-4 in 14.
Albert Pujols(notes) - 1 for 6 this year against Cueto - went 4 for 4 with a grand slam and solo homer Wednesday in Milwaukee. The three-time MVP has hit 15 of his NL-best 34 homers at Busch Stadium, but has gone deep there just four times in 19 second-half games.
Chris Carpenter (8-9, 3.76 ERA) gets the call for St. Louis, and will be looking to beat Cincinnati for the third straight time.
The right-hander yielded one run and 13 hits in 16 innings in two wins over the Reds in July. He was 0-1 with a 6.57 ERA in two starts against them in April and May.
The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner will try to bounce back from his second loss since mid-June. Carpenter was tagged for six runs in five innings of Saturday’s 7-0 loss to Pittsburgh, dropping to 3-1 with a 2.94 ERA in his last seven starts at Busch Stadium.
Cincinnati is hitting .250 on the road, but .201 at Busch Stadium this year.
It appears as if the Reds (67-70) will not get a chance to defend their division crown. Cincinnati suffered its first four-game sweep at home by Philadelphia in 95 years with Thursday’s 6-4 loss.
The Reds scored just six runs and batted .190 in the series.
“This series kind of leaves a bitter taste in our mouth, but we have to go have a good road trip and get right back up to .500 and hopefully beyond,” outfielder Chris Heisey(notes) told the Reds’ official website.
Cincinnati is six games behind St. Louis heading into a nine-game trip that includes matchups with the Chicago Cubs and Colorado.