The Cincinnati Reds missed a prime opportunity to pick up ground on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central race last week at Busch Stadium, but they at least were able to avoid a sweep as Adam Wainwright labored through his worst start of the season.
Cincinnati sends Mat Latos to the mound to oppose Wainwright as the clubs begin a crucial four-game series Monday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds (76-61) hold the league's second wild-card spot while trailing St. Louis (79-57) and Pittsburgh by 3 1/2 games in the Central. They lost two of three to the Cardinals from Monday through Wednesday, then dropped two of three at Colorado with Sunday's 7-4 defeat.
Shin-Soo Choo went 3 for 5 with a two-run homer and Chris Heisey finished 4 for 4 for Cincinnati, which has dropped six of eight.
"Every game from here on out is huge, especially games against the Cardinals," Heisey said. "We just have to show up and play the ball we can. We got them at home this time. I think we're a little more comfortable playing at our home ballpark, and hopefully we can play well against them."
Cincinnati lost 10 of the first 14 meetings with St. Louis - with Latos starting three of the four victories - but its offense battered Wainwright on Wednesday in a 10-0 victory to salvage the series finale.
Wainwright (15-8, 2.96 ERA) allowed four hits and a walk to the first five batters as the Reds scored nine runs in his two innings on the hill. He allowed two runs over seven frames in each of his first two outings against Cincinnati this season, losing 2-1 on April 29 before earning a 9-2 win June 7.
"You just have to throw it away," Wainwright said of his last start. "You'd like to say there's something to learn in every game. I'm going to forget about it and go back to pitching."
The right-hander, who had allowed two runs while striking out 20 over 16 innings to win his previous two starts, will be looking to become the NL's first 16-game winner, though the Reds are countering with their top pitcher.
Latos (13-5, 3.03) went 3-1 with a 0.89 ERA while allowing three runs in 30 1-3 innings over his previous four starts before giving up four runs in six-plus frames of Tuesday's 6-1 loss to the Cardinals.
Matt Carpenter , Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday each singled to start the bottom of the first as St. Louis reached Latos for two runs early. The right-hander had gone 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his previous three starts against the Cardinals this season.
"Latos did his thing," manager Dusty Baker said. "He threw the ball well. He got out of the first inning with minimum damage. He even helped himself at the plate (with two hits). He had as good at-bats as anybody."
He'll face a Cardinals team that struggled at the plate before Sunday's 7-2 win over Pittsburgh that tied the Pirates atop the division. Holliday and David Freese drove in two runs each for St. Louis, which had scored one run during a three-game skid prior to the victory."For us to come back out in a day game after scoring one run the first two nights (of the series) was really big," Freese said. "It finally gave us a little momentum."
The Cardinals have won five of their last seven at Cincinnati.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 22, 2013||Jake Westbrook||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|August 15, 2013||Tony Cruz||15-Day DL||Stress fracture, left forearm|
|August 15, 2013||Tony Cruz||15-Day DL||Stress fracture, left forearm|
|August 11, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right foot contusion|
|August 07, 2013||Shelby Miller||Day-to-Day||Right elbow contusion|
|July 31, 2013||Shane Robinson||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|August 22, 2013||Jonathan Broxton||60-Day DL||Flexor mass strain, right forearm|
|August 21, 2013||Tony Cingrani||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|August 21, 2013||Jonathan Broxton||Day-to-Day||Left game - elbow|
|August 20, 2013||Tony Cingrani||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained lower back|
|August 08, 2013||Corky Miller||15-Day DL||Right quad contusion|
|August 07, 2013||Corky Miller||Day-to-Day||Right quad contusion|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- One very bad and very short day in St. Louis, followed by another bad game in Cincinnati. Adam Wainwright doesn't understand why he's having a really tough time getting the Reds out.
Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto homered on Monday as Cincinnati roughed up Wainwright for the second start in a row, and Mat Latos went the distance for the first time this season in a 7-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Latos (14-5) credited an offense that seems to have Wainwright's number.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing, but there's definitely more of an anxiety added when you have a guy like Wainwright," said Latos, who allowed four hits. "We were fortunate to be able to get to him today."
Fortunate? Or maybe they've figured him out?
"I don't know about that," said Ryan Ludwick , who singled home a run. "I think we've gotten some pitches to hit the last two outings we've faced him, and we've done damage."
Latos gave up a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly by Matt Holliday in his fourth career complete game.
The third-place Reds are trying to end the Cardinals' season-long dominance during their four-game series at Great American Ball Park. St. Louis has won the last seven series between the teams and is 10-6 against Cincinnati this year.
"It starts at one," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Hopefully this is just a beginning because we've got a lot of work to do, a long way to go."
The Cardinals took two of three in St. Louis last week, the only loss coming when the Reds tagged Wainwright (15-9) for nine runs in a career-low two innings. They hit him hard again on Monday, piling up six runs and 10 hits in six innings.
Wainwright isn't sure what's going on with him and the Reds.
"The last time, it was a matter of me leaving too many ball in the middle of the plate," Wainwright said. "Today, they hit some good pitches. I feel very strong. I've had some good games against them in the past. It's a head-scratcher, to be honest with you."
It's an important series for Cincinnati, which now trails the Cardinals by 2 1/2 games. St. Louis opened the day tied with Pittsburgh for first place. The Reds maintain a comfortable lead for the final NL wild-card spot.
The last time the Cardinals visited Great American Ball Park, they won by scores of 13-3 and 15-2 during a one-sided series that left the Reds embarrassed. This one started much better for them.
Wainwright fell to 5-9 career against Cincinnati. In his last two starts against the Reds, the right-hander has given up 18 hits and 15 runs in only eight innings. He's 1-3 in four starts against Cincinnati this season with a 7.77 ERA.
"That's a real good pitcher," Baker said. "We have nothing but respect for Wainwright. He's not the guy that you would exactly choose to face twice a week. It's a funny game."
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina came out of the game in the fifth inning because of a sore left wrist. He was activated off the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 15 after missing 14 games with a sore right knee.
The Reds quickly got to Wainwright. Choo opened the first with a single and scored on Ludwick's two-out single. Ludwick missed more than three months with torn cartilage in his right shoulder, but the left fielder is starting to get his swing back in shape. Ludwick has driven in a run in each of his last four games.
Zack Cozart singled home a run in the second, and Choo's two-run homer made it 4-0. Choo leads all major league leadoff hitters with 19 homers. He has three homers during a six-game hitting streak, which includes four multihit games.
Votto hit an up-and-away 1-2 pitch to the opposite field in left for his 21st homer in the fourth inning.
NOTES: Cardinals RF Carlos Beltran 's back was still sore on Monday, prompting manager Mike Matheny to keep him out of the starting lineup for a second straight day as a precaution. "Instead of trying to push him through, we've tried to pay attention to how he feels," Matheny said. "That should pay dividends in the long run." ... St. Louis 1B Matt Adams extended his slump to 0 for 14. ... The Reds called up OF Billy Hamilton and INF Neftali Soto and activated C Corky Miller off the 15-day DL before the game. ... Homer Bailey (9-10) tries to extend his winning streak - 4-0 in his last six starts - against the Cardinals' Michael Wacha (2-0), who makes his fifth career start.
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