Cardinals continue march toward postseason

Asked about the St. Louis Cardinals‘ 10th straight series win Thursday night, manager Mike Shildt explained it simply.

“You win series, you’re going to win the Series,” he said.

While St. Louis is two months away from that goal, it continues to march toward the postseason. With its 5-0 blanking of the Pittsburgh Pirates, it remained atop the National League wild-card race and stayed within 4 1/2 games of the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.

The Cardinals, whose 21 wins in August are their most in a month since August of 2004, will try for a 22nd victory to end the month Friday night when they open a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds in Busch Stadium.

“It’s just the byproduct of daily consistency and focus,” Shildt said. “You’re seeing guys with a competitive spirit and they’re bringing it every day. It’s clearly not easy to win games, but the guys are committed on a daily basis.”

At 75-59, St. Louis is 28-13 under Shildt. His first game was July 15, a 6-4 win over Cincinnati, and the last series it lost under his command was in late July against the Reds.

Those Reds were playing good baseball at the time, winning against good teams and making a case for interim manager Jim Riggleman to become the permanent skipper. These Reds have regressed to what’s been a five-season mean, falling back to 20 games under .500 Thursday with a 2-1, 11-inning loss to Milwaukee.

Not even the activation of All-Star first baseman Joey Votto from the 10-day disabled list could enable Cincinnati (57-77) to turn things around. It has lost eight of the last 10 games as a familiar problem has cropped up. The Reds have allowed 67 runs in that span.

If recent and career-long trends hold true, Friday night probably won’t launch a turnaround for Cincinnati. Veteran right-hander Homer Bailey (1-12, 6.17 ERA) will start the series opener, which should excite Cardinal fans and their hitters.

Bailey is coming off a 9-0 loss Sunday at the Cubs, permitting eight hits and six runs, three earned, over five innings. The Reds have lost 17 of his 18 starts this year, including nine in a row, dating back to his 5-3 win on May 12 at the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Bailey is 0-1 with two no-decisions in three outings against St. Louis this year, logging a respectable earned run average of less than 4.00. But in his career, Bailey is 6-14 with a 5.57 ERA in 26 starts, throwing 22 home run balls in just 140 2/3 innings.

The Cardinals counter with rookie left-hander Austin Gomber (4-0, 2.79), who has permitted only four runs in his last four starts, covering 22 innings. Gomber checked Colorado on five hits and two runs over six innings Sunday in a 12-3 romp at Coors Field, walking one and whiffing six.

In his first career start on July 24, Gomber took a no-hitter into the seventh against the Reds before losing it and ultimately being no-decisioned in a 4-2 St. Louis win.