The battle for the second National League wild card spot will intensify when the Cincinnati Reds visit the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.
The Reds (74-67) have lost eight of their last 11 games and are one game back of the San Diego Padres for the final postseason slot.
They come into this three-game series at Busch Stadium after suffering a painful 4-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings Wednesday night.
“We’re going to look towards St. Louis right now and try to see if we could get more wins,” Reds pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez said.
“Obviously a tough, tough loss,” Reds manager David Bell said. “But we have a lot left ahead of us, and we put it behind us and we move forward. We just have to keep playing.”
The Cardinals (71-68) are coming off a split of their four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. They are three games back of the Padres in the wild-card race after winning their last two games.
“Overall, as a team, it was huge for us to work our way back and split that series,” Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford said.
The Reds will start Tyler Mahle (11-5, 3.76 ERA), who is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals this season and 3-3 with a 4.76 ERA in 11 career starts against them.
Yadier Molina (9-for-20, two home runs, five RBIs), Paul Goldschmidt (8-for-20, double, triple, homer, two RBIs), Harrison Bader (3-for-7, two walks, two homers, three RBIs) and Nolan Arenado (4-for-13, two RBIs) have hit well against him.
Mahle struggled with his command in his last start, walking a season-high five batters in five innings while allowing four runs on six hits in a 7-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
“I didn’t do great tonight in a game that we needed to win,” said Mahle, who earned the victory. “I guess that’s what is most frustrating. Such a big game. I just didn’t step up to the plate.”
The Cardinals will counter with Jon Lester (5-6, 4.89 ERA), who is 2-1 with a 4.62 ERA in seven starts since coming from the Washington Nationals in a trade.
“Any time you come into a new situation, it will take you a minute to settle in,” Lester said. “All the guys here are great. It’s been really welcoming. Then it just becomes going out and trying to do your job, feel comfortable out there.”
He has allowed just three runs in 16 2/3 innings in his last three starts on the strength of an effective sinker.
“Over the last couple of starts, it has been a pretty effective pitch for us,” Lester said. “Always kind of just dodge and weave and make adjustments as we go.”
Lester earned a 3-1 victory over the Reds on Aug. 30 in his only start against them this season. He is 9-2 with a 3.62 ERA in 21 career starts against them.
Eugenio Suarez (16-for-45, three doubles, six homers, 12 RBIs) has hit Lester well, but Tucker Barnhart (3-for-14), Joey Votto (9-for-42, 10 strikeouts), Asdrubal Cabrera (10-for-38, 10 strikeouts) and Aristides Aquino (1-for-8) have not.
The Reds lead the season series 9-7.
–Field Level Media