The St. Louis Cardinals erupted for 28 runs during a five-game winning streak before being limited to just two hits for the fourth time this season in their series-opening 2-1 loss to the host Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.
The Cardinals aim to locate their bats and ignite the offense on Friday night as they play the second contest of their four-game set against right-hander Luis Castillo (11-4, 2.69 ERA).
The Cardinals also struck out 15 times, with Paul DeJong joining five others in the lineup by fanning twice.
"Overall as an offense, I think we've been playing pretty well. (Thursday's game) is an easy one to flush," DeJong said. "... There's no reason to get down over a 2-1 loss."
Mike Shildt may come up with a few reasons, although the St. Louis manager elected to tip his hat to Thursday's starter, Sonny Gray, and the Reds' bullpen.
"That's a tough recipe, 15 strikeouts and two hits," Shildt said. "Their pitchers did a phenomenal job."
The Reds were thrilled to snap their four-game losing skid as they keep their slim postseason aspirations in sight. Cincinnati resides 6 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot in the National League. They're also 6 1/2 games behind NL Central co-leaders Chicago and St. Louis.
Eugenio Suarez's play is one reason for optimism, as the 28-year-old has hit safely in eight of his last nine games. His two singles on Thursday gave him 12 hits in the season series against St. Louis.
"My confidence is high, that's the most important thing to me," Suarez said. "To be aggressive at the home plate and try to help my team, that is my goal this year."
Like Suarez, Jose Iglesias also had a pair of singles to extend his hitting streak to 10 games -- the longest stretch by a Reds player this season.
Whether Joey Votto will be in Friday's lineup is in question after the former NL Most Valuable Player sat out the series opener with lower back tightness.
"It just tightened up on him right before the game," Reds manager David Bell said of the 35-year-old Votto. "He's had this a couple of times this year. It might be just a day-to-day thing."
Cincinnati will attempt to pick up its second straight win on Friday when it faces St. Louis right-hander Adam Wainwright (8-8, 4.35 ERA).
Wainwright allowed one run on six hits in six innings of a 3-1 victory against Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The 37-year-old owns a 9-12 record with a 5.31 ERA in 31 career appearances (26 starts) versus Cincinnati, although he was able to escape with a no-decision against the Reds on July 19 despite yielding season highs of seven runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Castillo aims to even his career record versus the Cardinals when he takes the mound on Friday.
Castillo improved to 2-3 with a 3.11 ERA in eight career starts against St. Louis.
This season, he allowed one run on two hits in six innings in a 4-1 win on June 4, and then ended up with a no-decision despite permitting just one run in six frames on July 20.
--Field Level Media