Cards try to avoid being swept by Reds as Martinez takes the mound
CINCINNATI -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny isn't ready to concede the National League Central title to the Chicago Cubs, even though the magic number is dwindling by the day.
"Not backing off that," Matheny said.
Still, the Cardinals are very much in the thick of the playoff chase, holding a two-game lead over the New York Mets for the second NL wild-card spot entering Saturday.
Despite the Cardinals' rash of key injuries, Matheny is pleased with his team's position despite the outside noise to the contrary.
"It does feel like we're a last-place team with some of the stuff you hear," Matheny said. "We have high expectations from our fan base, our organization, and for ourselves. Sometimes it gets a little out of sight how well these guys are doing."
St. Louis wraps up a three-game series in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon.
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Right-hander Carlos Martinez will start Sunday's series finale against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. In his only start this season against Cincinnati, Martinez is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in seven innings. In his career, Martinez is 4-1 with a 2.72 ERA in four starts against the Reds.
Martinez struck out a career-high 13 batters through six innings in his last start on Aug. 29 at Milwaukee. He has given up one run in each of his last three outings.
Cincinnati will counter with right-hander Tim Adleman, who will make his eighth career start on Sunday and first against the Cardinals.
Adleman is 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 16.
Adleman is in his second stint with the Reds this season, going 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA in his first four career starts before suffering a strained left oblique that landed him on the disabled list. He's one of 11 Reds players to make their major league debut this season.
The Cardinals hope to have Mike Leake back with the ballclub Sunday. Leake has been on the disabled list following a bout with shingles. The infection is gone, but the right-hander is working to regain his strength. Leake, a former Red, is expected to arrive in Cincinnati by Sunday morning and throw a bullpen before the game.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was given a day off Saturday, so Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton will have to wait until Sunday to resume wreaking havoc on the veteran backstop. Coming into Sunday, Hamilton is 23 of 25 on stolen base attempts against Molina. His 23 steals are the most by any player against Molina. Hamilton began his career 10-for-10 against him.
Cincinnati hopes to have second baseman Brandon Phillips back in the lineup. He missed Saturday's game after fouling a pitch off his left foot. It's yet another in a series of injuries suffered this season by the Reds second baseman.
Despite a 9-1 loss on Saturday that clinched a series victory for the Reds, the Cardinals have won 19 of the past 25 series between the clubs. In the past 12 series at Great American Ball Park, St. Louis has gone 8-5.