The red-hot St. Louis Cardinals are showing few signs of slowing down and facing the Cincinnati Reds isn’t likely to impede their path to a second straight NL Central crown.
Michael Wacha tries to continue the Cardinals’ outstanding pitching as they go for their longest winning streak over the Reds in 33 years on Tuesday night.
St. Louis (80-64) has won nine of 10 to go from two games out of first place in the division to 4 1/2 up on second-place Pittsburgh.
While the offense is hitting .292 in the past 10 contests, the pitching staff has been vital to the Cardinals’ ascension in the standings, compiling a 1.89 ERA in those victories. That dominance continued Monday, when Shelby Miller and two relievers three-hit Cincinnati in a 5-0 win in the opener of this four-game set.
"Everything is clicking right now," said first baseman Matt Adams, who hit a three-run homer in the ninth Monday. "Our starting pitching is just unbelievable right now, and our offense is doing what it’s capable of doing."
That’s certainly been the case against Cincinnati (67-77), with St. Louis compiling a 1.96 ERA and a .319 batting average with 33 runs while winning six straight meetings.
The Cardinals haven’t won seven in a row over the Reds since September 1980-May 1981.
Wacha (5-5, 2.80 ERA) will try to help them match that streak in his second start since returning from a shoulder injury that kept him on the disabled list nearly three months.
The right-hander was limited to 50 pitches in three innings Thursday, yielding one run and three hits in a 3-2 win at Milwaukee.
"I thought he was good," manager Mike Matheny told MLB’s official website. "His changeup is so valuable to him. I thought he was really strong with it early. I thought his last inning was his best with it. It had a lot more depth. But his curveball was good.
"His curveball has improved so much this season, and it’s a pitch that he goes to in deep counts and behind in counts. I thought velocity looked good."
Wacha is 1-0 with a 0.48 ERA in three career starts against the Reds and hasn’t allowed a run over 12 2-3 innings in two in Cincinnati.
He’s 0-5 with a 3.38 ERA in eight road starts this season, but is facing a Reds team that owns a .219 average while losing 19 of 26.
The pitchers haven’t been any better with a 4.78 ERA over that stretch and Mike Leake (10-11, 3.59) takes the ball trying to bounce back from his worst performance of the season.
The right-hander matched career highs by surrendering seven runs and three homers in four innings but escaped without a decision Thursday in a 9-7 loss at Baltimore.
He had tossed 13 2-3 scoreless innings in his previous two starts, but regaining that form seems unlikely against the Cardinals.
Leake is 2-5 with a 5.40 ERA in eight career home starts against St. Louis, losing three straight behind a 6.75 ERA. He wasn’t entirely to blame in a 4-0 loss May 25, when he allowed two runs with eight strikeouts in six innings while Cincinnati mustered six singles off Adam Wainwright and two relievers.
Matt Holliday is 12 for 30 against Leake and Adams is 6 for 15. Both players have a homer and three doubles in their matchups.