Watch Tonight: Pirates at Cardinals

(AP) — With a better performance
against teams with losing records, the St. Louis Cardinals might not be
on the verge of missing the postseason.

Looking to improve their record
against teams below .500, the Cardinals open a three-game series with
the major league-worst Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

Another loss will eliminate St. Louis
(80-75) from postseason contention, but that won’t stop the Cardinals
from making the most of the final week.

“What’s to lose? We’re going to go
out there and continue to do what we’ve been doing since day one and go
out there and play hard,” said Albert Pujols, who hit his NL-leading
42nd homer during an 8-7 win at Chicago on Sunday.

Though the Cardinals took two of three from the underachieving Cubs, they are 45-49 against teams below .500 in 2010.

“That’s been ridiculous,” manager
Tony La Russa said. “It’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in
all my years. I have no explanation, we’ve just had a tough time
beating clubs with a losing record.”

St. Louis is 7-5 against Pittsburgh
(55-100) this season, including losses in four of the last five
meetings – all on the road. The Cardinals, however, have outscored the
Pirates 32-7 during a six-game home winning streak in the series.

Pujols is batting .455 with six homers and 15 RBIs in his last 18 games versus Pittsburgh at Busch Stadium.

Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse (4-8,
7.18 ERA) looks for a better outing than the last time he faced the
Pirates when he takes the ball Monday.

The right-hander had allowed five
total runs while winning his two previous starts, but gave up six in
three innings of an 11-6 loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The defeat
was Lohse’s first in eight career starts against the Pirates.

“Nothing against those guys, but
it’s a team I’ve had good success against,” Lohse said. “To go out
there and perform like that is really frustrating.”

Pittsburgh’s scheduled starter
Charlie Morton (2-11, 8.11) gave up two runs in six innings Wednesday
against Lohse and the Cardinals to record his first win since May 5.

“I think if I go out and pitch well,
I’ll get a win,” said Morton, who has a 3.63 ERA in his last three
starts. “That’s the attitude I have to have.”

The right-hander is 1-3 with an 8.44 lifetime ERA versus St. Louis.

With a 15-59 mark away from home,
the Pirates are on pace for the NL’s worst road record since the 1963
Mets finished 17-64. The Pirates have also lost 45 of their last 51 on
the road, but begin this trip with momentum after going 7-2 on their
final homestand and averaging 6.3 runs in those games.

“We need to finish up these next
seven and expect to do what we did in these last nine,” said Paul
Maholm, who earned the win in a 9-3 victory over Houston on Sunday.

Pedro Alvarez went 3 for 5 with two
RBIs in Sunday’s victory. The rookie third baseman is 10 for 24 with 13
RBIs in his last six games, but 5 for 34 with 14 strikeouts against the
Cardinals.