Pirates-Cardinals Preview

The St. Louis Cardinals are still alive in the NL Central hunt,

but could be eliminated before they complete another game.

The Cardinals hope to keep their slim playoff hopes from

vanishing and win a third straight game Tuesday night against the

Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis (81-75) is six games back of first-place Cincinnati

and stayed in the division race for at least one more day with a

6-4 win over the Pirates in Monday’s series opener. A Cardinals

loss would have clinched the division for the Reds, who were idle

Monday and have a magic number of one.

Cincinnati, which takes the field against Houston on Tuesday an

hour earlier than St. Louis, can wrap up the Central with a

win.

Although the Cardinals’ playoff chances are faint, they’re not

about to give up.

“Anything is possible,” said Matt Holliday, who hit his 28th

homer Monday. “We’ve just got to keep playing.”

If St. Louis is able to win its final six games and the Reds

lose their last six there would be a one-game playoff for the

division title.

“What’s meaningful is looking in the mirror and seeing that we

took our best shot,” manager Tony La Russa said.

The Cardinals have won two in a row and four of five. This

stretch started with a 9-2 victory at Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Jeff Suppan (2-7, 5.40 ERA) earned the win in that game and

takes the ball Tuesday looking to continue his dominance over the

Pirates (55-101).

Suppan allowed one run and four hits in five innings at PNC Park

on Thursday for his first victory in nearly two months. The

right-hander’s only other win came against the Pirates on July 31,

when he threw 5 1-3 scoreless innings.

Suppan, who pitched for Pittsburgh in 2003, has won nine

straight decisions over his former team since losing Aug. 11, 2006.

He’s 16-3 with a 4.12 ERA lifetime against the Pirates, his most

victories against any opponent.

Pittsburgh counters with Brian Burres (3-4, 5.29), who struggled

while opposing Suppan last week.

The left-hander was 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts since

moving from the bullpen into the rotation to replace the injured

Jeff Karstens, but took the loss Thursday, allowing four runs and

six hits in 2 1-3 innings. Albert Pujols had two of those hits,

including a two-run homer.

Pujols had two hits Monday and picked up his NL-leading 117th

RBI with a run-scoring single in the third. The three-time NL MVP,

who also leads the league with 42 homers, is 9 for 16 (.563) with

three home runs and eight RBIs in his last five games and hitting

.472 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his last nine against the

Pirates.

Pittsburgh lost Monday after an impressive 7-2 homestand and now

has its most defeats since 1985, when it went 57-104.

While the Pirates played well at PNC Park last week, they’ve

dropped five straight road games and are 2-22 in their last 24 away

from Pittsburgh. They’ve also lost seven straight in St. Louis and

have been outscored 27-6 in four meetings there this year.