The Cincinnati Reds look to ignite their offense on Monday when they begin a pivotal three-game series against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.
The Reds have lost four of their last six games overall — all on the road, including two in a row in which they mustered just one run in each outing.
Cincinnati’s grasp on the National League’s second wild-card slot is tenuous at best. The Reds hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the San Diego Padres and a 3 1/2-game advantage over the Cardinals.
“We’ve got some big games coming up and we’ve just got to look forward to (Monday),” Cincinnati catcher Tyler Stephenson said after Sunday’s 2-1 setback to the Miami Marlins. “That’s all we can worry about right now.”
Tyler Naquin saw his career-best, 17-game hitting streak come to a halt on Sunday. His team, after all, only had two hits en route to losing the rubber match of the three-game series.
The Reds hope to regain their footing against St. Louis. Cincinnati has won eight of the 13 meetings this season with its NL Central rival, including six in a row at one point before dropping a 10-6 decision in the last encounter on July 25.
The Cardinals aim to pick themselves off the mat after absorbing a heartbreaking 4-3 loss on Sunday. Yoshi Tsutsugo belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates sent St. Louis to its seventh loss in the last 12 games.
“It hurts everybody that’s invested in our team. It hurts our team. It’s tough,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We’re fighting our tails off. We don’t have a lot of margin for error is probably a big part of this. We do all these little things right, but we don’t create a lot of margin for error.”
Alex Reyes surrendered the game-ending homer, resulting in his third blown save this month and third loss in a span of two weeks.
“There’s been bumps in the road for everybody in our ball club,” Shildt said. “His bumps just happen to be more visible.”
St. Louis will hand the ball to left-hander Jon Lester (4-6, 5.27 ERA) on Monday.
Lester, 37, allowed 11 runs on 15 hits in his first two starts with the Cardinals before surrendering just six and 20, respectively, over his last three. He permitted one run on seven hits in five innings of a no-decision versus Detroit on Wednesday.
Lester sports an 8-2 record with a 3.74 ERA in 20 career starts against Cincinnati.
Eugenio Suarez has fared well versus Lester, batting a robust .372 (16-for-43) with six homers and 12 RBIs.
The Reds will turn to right-hander Luis Castillo (7-13, 4.29) on Monday.
Castillo, 28, has lost three of his last four starts, although he has yielded just six runs over his last three (20 innings).
Castillo rebounded after losing his first two decisions to St. Louis this season by allowing a total of two runs to win his last two encounters with the club.
Castillo owns a 6-6 record with a 4.34 ERA in 15 career meetings with the Cardinals. He has flustered both Yadier Molina (4-for-23) and Tyler O’Neill (3-for-21), although the latter has belted two homers against him.
–Field Level Media