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Sat, Jun 8, 2013 - 7:15 PM ET
 

Cardinals-Reds Preview

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The St. Louis Cardinals own the best record in baseball, thanks in large part to a superb pitching staff.

The lineup is also coming through.

The visiting Cardinals go for another big effort at the plate as they try to continue their recent success over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.

St. Louis (40-21) has the best staff in the majors, compiling the lowest overall ERA (3.16) and among starters (2.63).

Adam Wainwright gave the Cardinals another great effort on the mound Friday, yielding two runs with seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 9-2 win to open this three-game set.

St. Louis has taken nine of 13 against the Reds, and another victory will clinch a fifth straight series win. The Cardinals lead the NL Central by a season-high four games over Cincinnati (36-25) and Pittsburgh.

While the pitching has been terrific, it could be the offense that keeps the Cardinals rolling against the Reds. St. Louis is hitting .304 with 19 homers and 38 doubles while averaging 5.9 runs during a 12-5 stretch after pounding out 16 hits - seven doubles - Friday.

"They can just hit," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Call it whatever you want. I don't have a whole lot to say."

St. Louis has been particularly impressive with runners in scoring position, hitting .362 over the past 17 games.

"I don't really see what we do different other than we get hits when we need them," said shortstop Pete Kozma, who had two hits and tied his career high with three RBIs.

David Freese has the longest active hitting streak in the majors at 17 games, during which he's batting .397 with 16 RBIs. He had two hits and drove in two runs in the series opener, giving him a .321 average in 18 visits to Great American Ball Park.

Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter is batting .435 with 16 runs during a career-high 16-game hit streak. He's hitting .362 in 18 games against the Reds, going 6 for 16 in seven at Cincinnati.

The hot-hitting duo, however, is a combined 1 for 8 off Reds scheduled starter Mat Latos.

Cincinnati is hoping Latos (5-0, 2.90 ERA) can help it snap a three-game slide with another strong effort against the division leader. He's 1-0 while allowing four runs - one earned - in 12 innings over two starts versus St. Louis this year.

Both of those outings, though, were on the road, and he was hit hard in his most recent home meeting Aug. 24, giving up seven runs and nine hits - two homers - in five innings of an 8-5 defeat.

The Reds lost for the first time in eight games with Latos on the mound Sunday, and it certainly wasn't the right-hander's fault. He yielded two runs and two hits with seven strikeouts before leaving after the sixth, only to watch Jonathan Broxton blow the save in a 5-4 loss in 11 at Pittsburgh.

All three of Broxton's blown saves have come in starts by Latos.

The Cardinals will counter with Tyler Lyons (2-1, 2.66). The rookie left-hander was dealt his first major league loss Sunday, when he gave up four runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-2 home defeat to San Francisco.

Lyons won his previous two outings on the road in impressive fashion, yielding one run in seven innings of each game.

Tagged: Reds, Cardinals, Mat Latos

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