Pirates Could Get Swept

Behind a sluggish offense, the St. Louis Cardinals' title defense has been a struggle.

After getting some power their last time out, the Cardinals look to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second time this season when they conclude their three-game series on Thursday.

In April, St. Louis (18-25) took a three-game series from Pittsburgh - its only sweep after recording eight last year en route to its first World Series championship since 1982.

Oddsmakers have made St. Louis -125 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 8 total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 56% of bets for this game have been placed on St. Louis -125 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

The Pirates (19-26) got some revenge by sweeping a two-game set later in the month.

St. Louis has hit a major league-low 24 homers this season, but connected for three off Ian Snell in Wednesday's 5-3 victory.

David Eckstein led off the bottom of the first inning with his first home run this year, and the World Series MVP is hitting .500 (15-for-30) in his last eight games. After Jim Edmonds hit his second homer in the second, Chris Duncan followed with one in the fifth.

Duncan has homered in three straight games and has five of the Cardinals' eight home runs in May. He also leads the Cards with nine this year.

"It's just taboo to walk in there and tell these guys that this is the beginning of a power surge,'' St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "But there were some nice swings.''

Albert Pujols went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to seven games. The 2005 NL MVP is batting .448 (13-for-29) during his run, but is hitless in six at-bats against Thursday's starter Tom Gorzelanny (5-2, 2.43 ERA).

In two starts against St. Louis this season, Gorzelanny has allowed just one run and eight hits in 15 1-3 innings but is only 1-0. He gave up one run in 8 1-3 innings of a 6-1 victory at St. Louis on April 17, a week after his bullpen couldn't protect a 2-0 lead and the Pirates lost 3-2 in 12 innings.

Pittsburgh's bullpen also kept Gorzelanny from a win in his last start. The left-hander gave up two runs and seven hits in six innings on Saturday for his seventh quality start of the season, but the bullpen yielded seven runs in a 9-8 loss to Arizona.

"It's baseball. It happens. You can't win every one," Gorzelanny told the Pirates' official Web site.

Gorzelanny has put his team in position to win each of his last four starts - allowing two runs or fewer in each of those games - and has gone 2-1 in those games.

Braden Looper (5-3, 3.27) looks to bounce back from his worst start of the season for the Cardinals.

After allowing one run in 13 innings while winning his previous two starts, Looper was tagged for a career-high seven runs and nine hits in four innings of a 14-4 loss to Detroit on Friday. He had a 2.29 ERA coming into that contest.

"I kept trying to battle my way through it, and wasn't able to do it," Looper told the Cardinals' official Web site. "I was basically terrible."

Looper had his best outing of the season against the Pirates on April 9, giving up two hits in seven innings of a 3-0 win. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 1.60 ERA in 24 games - one start - lifetime against Pittsburgh.

The Pirates have matched a season high with four straight losses, and have dropped eight of their last 12.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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