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Harang Faces Cards

Braden Looper blew the last save opportunity he had versus Cincinnati. As a starter, however, he's done an excellent job of giving St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen a chance to secure wins against the Reds.

Looper looks to continue his run of success against the Reds on Wednesday when he takes the mound for the Cardinals in the decisive game of the teams' series.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Cincinnati -116 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on St. Louis +106 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

Looper (3-1, 4.05 ERA) was a closer with Florida and the New York Mets from 2002-05, but blew a save for St. Louis (17-11) against Cincinnati (12-16) on April 16, 2006, in his first such opportunity with the Cardinals. He was relegated to a setup role the rest of that season, and was converted into a starter in 2007.

The veteran right-hander was inconsistent in his first full year in the rotation, but he went 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA and limited Reds hitters to a .146 average in two starts against Cincinnati. Isringhausen earned a save in both of those games.

But Isringhausen, who has eight saves despite a 6.55 ERA, faltered in Looper's last outing.

Looper had his best start of the season, allowing two hits and walking one in seven shutout innings against Houston on Friday night. He was in line for a win, but Isringhausen gave up three runs in the top of the ninth as St. Louis lost 3-2.

Isringhausen wasn't needed Tuesday night as the Cardinals beat the Reds 7-2 to even the series and move into a tie with the Chicago Cubs atop the Central Division. St. Louis, which was lightly regarded entering the season, has had a strong April.

"It's good to get early success and have a little extra confidence," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "This is a tough-minded bunch. Nobody's going to celebrate, we're in it for the long haul and I'm telling you, this is going to be a very tough division."

With Isringhausen struggling, Looper could use another strong performance from St. Louis' lineup.

Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel combined for four hits and five RBIs in their first two at-bats, while Skip Schumaker tied his career best with four hits. Albert Pujols, meanwhile, was 0-for-4 to end a nine-game hitting streak, but walked in the eighth inning and has reached base safely in all 28 games.

The Cardinals will be facing Reds veteran starter Aaron Harang (1-3, 2.76 ERA), who has gotten just one run to work with over his last two games. He has allowed two earned runs or less in five of his six outings.

The right-hander gave up three runs while striking out eight in 7 1-3 innings as Cincinnati lost 3-1 to San Francisco on Friday night.

Harang went 2-0 with a 3.48 ERA in three starts versus the Cardinals last season, and is 5-6 with a 4.46 ERA in 14 career starts.

Ken Griffey Jr., who needs three homers to become the sixth player to reach 600, has gone 1-for-9 in Harang's last two starts. He was 0-for-4 Tuesday and hasn't homered in six games.

Cincinnati matched a season low with three hits, and has been held to three runs or less in four of its last seven games.

"Chalk it up to one of those days," Reds catcher Paul Bako told the team's official Web site. "It's a long season."

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