Cardinals-Reds Preview

The Associated PressAugust 25, 2012

The St. Louis Cardinals are off to a good start on a challenging road trip.

Looking to match a season high with their fifth straight win, the Cardinals hope Jaime Garcia can continue his success against the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Allen Craig's three-run homer highlighted a six-run sixth inning that helped St. Louis (69-56) overcome a 5-2 deficit and snap a four-game skid versus Cincinnati with an 8-5 victory Friday.

"Without question, one of those character wins," manager Mike Matheny said. "It says a lot about this team. We'll have to be that kind of team the rest of the way."

It certainly was an ideal way for the Cardinals to open a 10-game trip that continues in Pittsburgh and ends at NL-leading Washington. The victory cut the Reds' division lead over St. Louis to six games, and the Cardinals own the second wild-card spot in the NL.

"A really big game for us to start the road trip against our top competitor and get a victory," said Craig, who is batting .434 (23 for 53) with two homers and nine RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak.

Yadier Molina, who followed Craig's homer with a solo shot, is 14 for 25 (.560) with seven RBIs in his last six games. He has homered in each of his last three games versus Cincinnati and is batting .444 (12 for 27) with four home runs and seven RBIs in seven contests at Great American Ball Park in 2012.

The Cardinals have hit .373 while scoring 32 runs during their four-game winning streak. They last won five in a row June 22-26.

Garcia (3-4, 4.00 ERA) is 7-1 with a 2.78 ERA in nine starts against the Reds (76-51), going 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two outings this season.

In his first start after missing more than two months with a sprained shoulder, the left-hander gave up two runs and struck out a season-high 10 in eight innings of a 6-3, 19-inning loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday.

"When something physical is not right, you can't really be yourself," Garcia told the Cardinals' official website. "I feel like a different guy."

Todd Frazier, 1 for 2 versus Garcia, had three hits Friday for the Reds, who have lost two straight and four of seven.

"We have an opportunity to put them back where they were (Saturday)," manager Dusty Baker said. "This is a big game for us. We'll be better rested."

Earning more playing time in place of injured star Joey Votto, Frazier is batting .466 with five homers and 17 RBIs in his last 16 games.

Cincinnati's Mike Leake (5-8, 4.59) takes the mound trying to bounce back after he allowed a season-high seven runs and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 12-5 loss at Philadelphia on Monday.

"Leake couldn't get the ball down," Baker said. "There were too many pitches up in the zone."

The right-hander has struggled with that same problem at times while giving up three homers and going 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts versus St. Louis this season.

He is 1-2 with a 5.24 ERA in five appearances - four starts - against the Cardinals, all at Great American Ball Park.