Cards Keeping Pace

The St. Louis Cardinals are going to need some help to have a chance at defending their World Series title. Meanwhile, they are doing everything they can to keep the pressure on the top two teams in the NL Central.

The Cardinals (66-66) try for a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds when the teams close out their three-game series on Sunday.

St. Louis followed up an 8-5 win over the Reds (62-74) in Friday's opener with an 11-3 blowout on Saturday. Rick Ankiel drove in three runs Saturday after the former pitcher hit his first career grand slam on Friday.

"He's just getting hits and he's having good at-bats, whatever the numbers are," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Ankiel, who is hitting .354. "He's competing beautifully and if he keeps doing that, everything takes care of itself."

Yadier Molina had three RBIs and homered for the second straight game while Jim Edmonds also drove in three to put the Cardinals back at .500 for the second time this week and the second time since April 16. With the win, they kept pace with the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, both of whom won on Saturday. The Cardinals are one-half game behind the second-place Brewers and two games in back of the division-leading Cubs.

"The trick is to not go back down now," Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright said. "Now we just need to ride this and hopefully get some momentum and just keep it going."

The Reds led 2-1 after three innings, but rookie Phil Dumatrait struggled, having allowed five runs and seven hits over 4 2-3 innings. Reliever Mike Gosling gave up six runs - three earned - over the sixth and seventh innings. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez's drop of a relay on a force play contributed to the three unearned runs in the five-run sixth.

The Reds have lost four of six since winning a season-high six straight.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made St. Louis -137 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on St. Louis -137 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo (7-13, 4.44 ERA) will try to win his third straight decision. Arroyo pitched well on Tuesday against the Pirates, allowing just one run and six hits over six innings, but he did not receive a decision in the Reds' 3-2 loss.

Arroyo, who had thrown just 80 pitches - 55 for strikes, said he requested to not return for the seventh inning.

"I was toast since the second inning," he told the Reds' official Web site. "It was one of those days. You really don't know why. I just ran out of fuel and felt a little shaky, like you get when you're real hungry."

Arroyo is 2-4 in 10 starts and two relief appearances against the Cardinals. The Reds are winless in his three starts against St. Louis this season. Arroyo has a 3.48 ERA in those outings.

Braden Looper (11-10, 4.66) counters for the Cardinals. He has won three of his last four decisions, including Tuesday against Houston against whom he allowed four hits in seven innings of a 7-0 win.

The right-hander has allowed two earned runs or fewer in his last four starts. Looper is 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA in 30 relief appearances and one start against the Reds.

He made his only start against them on April 25 and allowed one run and three hits in seven innings, but did not receive a decision in the 5-2 win.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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