(AP) — 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.