Coming off a successful homestand, the St. Louis Cardinals are full of confidence heading into a road trip against some of the best teams in the NL.
Looking for a fourth consecutive victory, the Cardinals' first stop comes Friday night in Cincinnati, where they'll try to avoid a fifth straight defeat to the Central-leading Reds.
St. Louis (68-56) scored 24 runs to sweep lowly Houston in a three-game set that concluded a 6-3 homestand. Owners of the NL's second wild-card spot, the Cardinals pounded out 17 hits in a 13-5 win Thursday."This team, they get the blood in the water and they can pile them on," said manager Mike Matheny , whose team is batting an NL-best .275.
Matheny hopes his club can continue to produce in Cincinnati (76-50), then at fellow contender Pittsburgh for three games before finishing the trip with four versus NL-leading Washington. While the Reds own a seven-game division lead over second-place St. Louis, the Pirates trail the Cardinals by one in the wild-card standings."A very big road trip, there's no doubt about that," Matheny said. "We need to string them together, that's all there is to it."
Winning just one game against the Reds has been tough for the reigning World Series champs of late. Though the Cardinals were swept in a three-game series at Cincinnati from July 13-15, two were decided by two runs and the other by one.
"I can't wait to play them," Matheny told the Cardinals' official website. "You look at how close that series was, it certainly could have gone three games the other (way) for us."
Matheny likely will need some of his hottest hitters to remain that way this weekend.
Allen Craig is batting .417 (20 for 48) during a 12-game hitting streak, but is 1 for 18 in his career versus Cincinnati. Outfielder Jon Jay is 10 for 22 in the last four games following an 0-for-9 slump, but has hit .167 (4 for 24) at Great American Ball Park in 2012.
Lance Lynn (13-5, 3.73 ERA) makes his first start versus Cincinnati after posting a 2.25 ERA in three relief appearances against the Reds last season.
The right-hander has enjoyed a stellar first full season in the majors but has a 6.49 ERA in his last five starts after going 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA in his previous three. Lynn allowed three runs, three walks and struck out eight in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-4 win over the Pirates on Saturday.
Cincinnati counters with Mat Latos (10-3, 3.56), who is 1-3 with a 9.75 ERA in five starts versus St. Louis. He's allowed 10 runs and walked six over 10 2-3 innings while going 0-1 against the Cardinals in 2012.
The right-hander yielded one run over 21 1-3 in his previous three outings before he gave up four - two earned - in eight innings of a 5-4 walkoff win over Chicago on Sunday.
The Reds settled for a split of a four-game set at Philadelphia after falling 4-3 in 11 innings Thursday. Todd Frazier had three RBIs and one of Cincinnati's six hits.
Frazier is batting .444 with five homers and 16 RBIs in his last 15 games, though he may be relegated to the bench with Joey Votto slated to return soon. Frazier's only hit in seven at-bats versus St. Louis this season left the park.
Ex-Cardinal Ryan Ludwick has hit .358 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in his last 15 home contests, but is 2 for 15 with a homer against his former club at Great American Ball Park in 2012.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 21, 2012||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right hand injury|
|August 16, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|August 08, 2012||Allen Craig||Day-to-Day||Sore ribs|
|August 03, 2012||Lance Berkman||15-Day DL||Right knee inflammation|
|July 28, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Stiff back|
|July 26, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left game - right calf cramp|
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 01, 2012||Wilson Valdez||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff neck|
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 31, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left calf|
|July 31, 2012||Bill Bray||15-Day DL||Lumbar muscle strain|
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Torn meniscus, left knee - out 3-4 weeks|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- No denying the importance of this one. The Cardinals knew they needed it.
Needed it to start a defining road trip with a step forward. Needed it to close the gap and slow down those Reds in the NL Central. Needed it to keep their own surge going.
With one big inning and a fabulous job by the bullpen, they got it.
Allen Craig and Yadier Molina homered during a six-run sixth inning on Friday night, and the defending World Series champions opened an important trip by beating the Cincinnati Reds 8-5 and moving six games back of the NL Central leaders.
"A really big game for us to start the road trip against our top competitor and get a victory," Craig said.
The Cardinals' big comeback off Mat Latos (10-4) started a 10-day trip against the Reds, Pirates and Nationals. Craig and Molina had three hits apiece as St. Louis piled up 14 in all, pulling away against a starter who has been tough to hit in August and a bullpen that is the NL's best.
"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."
Cincinnati got the better of it early, knocking starter Lance Lynn out of the game in the third inning. Joe Kelly (4-5) fanned six in three innings of relief. Jason Motte pitched the ninth for his 30th save in 35 chances, giving up a pair of singles before fanning Scott Rolen to end it.
St. Louis' bullpen allowed only six hits and fanned 13 over the last seven innings
"We've got a great offense and a great bullpen, and they bailed us out tonight," Lynn said. "That's the fun part of this team."
It's an important weekend for the Reds as well. They're honoring former shortstop and team captain Barry Larkin , who was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame this summer. His No. 11 will be retired by the team before Saturday's game and was stamped in chalk behind second base for the start of the series.
The opener came down to one big inning.
Latos tried to extend his August dominance - only three earned runs allowed in his four previous starts. He suffered a meltdown in the sixth inning, when he gave up four runs without retiring a batter.
"I went from having good command of my fastball to not," Latos said.
The inning started poorly for Latos, who was slow to cover first base on Carlos Beltran 's grounder, letting him reach on an infield single. Matt Holliday singled, and Craig followed with his 19th homer, trying it 5-all. Three pitches later, Molina hit an opposite-field homer - his fourth off the Reds this season.
Latos left after facing five batters in the inning without getting an out. St. Louis completed its six-run rally off Alfredo Simon , matching the biggest inning against the Reds this season.
The Cardinals are in a familiar spot when it comes to making up ground. Last year, they trailed Atlanta for the NL wild card by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 24, but caught the Braves to make the playoffs and went on to win their 11th World Series title.
They've started another late push, winning four in a row and 13 of their past 20 to move a season-high 13 games over .500.
The Reds are holding on while waiting for their best hitter to get back. First baseman Joey Votto did a full workout before the game and said he's "not too far off" from returning. Votto, the league's MVP in 2010, was batting .342 when he had surgery for torn knee cartilage on July 17.
The rest of the lineup has done an impeccable job without him, going 26-13.
Rookie shortstop Zack Cozart led off the Reds' first with a double, extending his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games. Rookie infielder Todd Frazier 's RBI single extended his streak to a career-high nine games, helping the Reds get the early advantage.
Craig had a couple of streaks in play. He led off the second inning with a single that extended his run to 13 games, the longest active one in the majors. The hit also snapped his 0-for-15 career mark at Great American Ball Park.
Notes: The teams have split their 10 games this season. ... In his past two starts combined, Lynn has lasted 6 1-3 innings and given up 10 hits and seven earned runs. ... Latos hadn't allowed more than one homer in any of his past six starts. ... Molina is batting .382 against the Reds this season. ... Motte became the 18th Cardinal to reach 30 saves.
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