Pirates-Cardinals Preview

Eliminated from postseason play, the St. Louis Cardinals can now

look toward next year. Rookie right-hander P.J. Walters would still

like to make one more solid impression in 2010.

Making his first start since June 1, Walters gets the ball

against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.

After winning its first NL Central title since its 2006 World

Series championship season last year, St. Louis (81-76) was

eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday when Cincinnati defeated

Houston to clinch the division title.

A 7-2 loss to the major league-worst Pirates (56-101) later

Tuesday was just another painful reminder of a disappointing

season.

“Our greatest fans, how do they feel right now? That’s how we

feel,” manager Tony La Russa said.

While St. Louis can’t erase a 9-21 stretch from Aug. 14-Sept. 15

that essentially knocked it out of the playoff race, Walters (1-0,

7.83 ERA) is hoping a solid finale can put a positive spin on a

disappointing year spent shuffling between the Cardinals and

Triple-A Memphis.

With starters Jeff Suppan, Brad Penny and Jake Westbrook

approaching free agency, Walters is also hoping to earn a spot in

the rotation next season.

“Everybody likes to end on a good note,” he told the Cardinals’

official website. “You want to finish strong and get ready for next

year. I’ve just got to do my job and get outs.”

After getting called up for the third time this season and

making his first major league appearance in nearly two months,

Walters struck out a season-high six and gave up five runs in a

four-inning relief appearance in an 11-6 loss at Pittsburgh last

Wednesday.

In his last start, Walters allowed seven runs and eight hits in

a 9-8 loss to the Reds.

With a chance to win their season-best fourth straight series

and first at Busch Stadium since May 13-15, 2008, the Pirates will

give the ball to James McDonald (4-5, 4.25).

The right-hander, 4-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 10 starts since being

acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July 31 trade

deadline, will look to close his season strong after surrendering

three runs and five hits in four innings while not receiving a

decision in Friday’s 10-7 loss to Houston.

“He’s got one more start and he really, really wants to make

it,” manager John Russell told the Pirates’ official website. “I

respect that. I think his next start he should be much more

efficient.”

McDonald went 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in four relief appearances

against the Cardinals in 2009.

Albert Pujols, who became the first Cardinal to walk 100 times

in three consecutive seasons Tuesday, is batting .389 with five

homers and 12 RBIs against Pittsburgh in 2010.

First baseman Garrett Jones, 2 for 2 against Walters, went 3 for

5 with a two-run homer Tuesday as Pittsburgh ended a seven-game

losing streak at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis is a victory away from posting its 12th winning season

in 15 years under La Russa.