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Slipping a Bit?

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St. Louis is in danger of losing three straight for the first time this season. Joel Pineiro's poor start doesn't bode well for the Cardinals' chances of ending their slump.

The Cardinals, playing the finale of a four-game road trip, hope for a decent outing from Pineiro on Thursday night when they try to avoid being swept in a two-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made St. Louis -106 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh -104 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

St. Louis (13-9) squandered a four-run lead in the opener of this series, losing 7-4 to Pittsburgh (9-12) on Wednesday night. The Cardinals have lost back-to-back games on their road trip after beating Milwaukee 4-3 in the opener Monday night, and they have lost four of five overall.

After opening the season strong thanks largely to surprisingly effective pitching from its starters, St. Louis' rotation has struggled during the team's slump. The Cardinals have given up seven or more runs three times in its last four games, and their starters have a 7.65 ERA in that span.

Pineiro (0-2, 8.10 ERA) has been the worst of St. Louis' starters, giving up nine runs in 10 innings spanning two starts and failing to record a strikeout.

The right-hander allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings as St. Louis lost 3-0 to San Francisco on Saturday. He is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in two career starts against Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh will counter with Tom Gorzelanny (1-2), who also has had a tough start. Gorzelanny, a 14-game winner in 2007, has given up seven runs twice in four starts.

The left-hander was tagged for seven runs and six hits in 2 2-3 innings as Pittsburgh lost 13-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. He faced the Cardinals for the first time last season, going 1-2 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts.

Gorzelanny will be facing a Cardinals lineup that has combined for 12 runs and 25 hits in its last two games.

Skip Schumaker, Albert Pujols and Adam Kennedy each had two hits for the Cardinals on Monday. Pujols is batting .417 (5-for-12) and drawn four walks in his last three games.

St. Louis' bench, meanwhile, needed some depth after shortstop Cesar Izturis was hit by a pitch on the right forearm in a 9-8 loss to the Brewers on Tuesday, so it activated infielder Brendan Ryan from the 15-day disabled list.

Ryan had been on a rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Springfield after he pulled a rib cage muscle in spring training. X-rays of Izturis' injury were negative, but he's expected to miss a few games.

"The swelling has gone down a little bit," Izturis told the Cardinals' official Web site. "I feel better and I plan to try and throw on Thursday."

Pittsburgh is coming off one of its better games at the plate, tallying 11 hits en route to its second win following a six-game skid.

"During the six-game stretch we've had, (giving up) would have been very easy after falling behind," Pirates left fielder Jason Bay said. "You still would like to have a game where we're up 10-0 right off the get-go and cruise to a win."

Jose Bautista and pinch-hitter Doug Mientkiewicz had RBI singles during a three-run eighth inning, Jason Bay added a two-run homer and Freddy Sanchez had two hits and scored two runs for Pittsburgh. Sanchez has hit safely in five straight games, raising his average from .216 to .239.

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