Preview: Cardinals at Diamondbacks

(AP) — With the St. Louis Cardinals struggling both on offense and defense, Chris Carpenter’s turn in the rotation couldn’t come at a much better time.

Carpenter will try to help the Cardinals snap out of their slump Sunday by earning his fourth straight victory and remaining unbeaten against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Cardinals (34-28) enter the finale of this three-game set having dropped five of six to fall 1 1/2 games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central. They’ve been outscored 30-17 during the slump, batting .194 as a team and posting a 5.12 staff ERA. Their ERA before this stretch was a major league-leading 2.98.

In Saturday night’s 7-2 loss, St. Louis managed seven hits to the Diamondbacks’ 12. Adam LaRoche homered twice for Arizona, and Mark Reynolds went 3 for 4 with his third home run in six contests.

The win was Arizona’s fifth in nine games since its 10-game losing streak.

The streaky LaRoche has nine homers this season, six of which have come in three games.

“It’s not totally unusual for me to have them come in bunches,” LaRoche said, “normally not in the same game like it is this year. But I’m starting to feel better. It started three days ago, I kind of tweaked some things in my stance to try to get in better position to drive the ball. Right now, it’s going pretty good.”

Hitting against Carpenter (7-1, 2.54 ERA) could prove a little more difficult. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA in his last three starts, and fell just short of another win Tuesday night in Los Angeles despite one of his best efforts of the season.

Carpenter scattered six hits over seven scoreless innings and walked one, but the Dodgers finally broke through in the eighth for a 1-0 victory over St. Louis.

“Carp pitched great but we just didn’t have enough offense to help him out,” outfielder Matt Holliday told the Cardinals’ official website.

As he goes for his 125th career victory, Carpenter will try to improve on his 4-0 record and 2.14 ERA in eight lifetime starts against the Diamondbacks (25-38).

He did not get a decision in a 9-4 victory April 21 at Chase Field despite a season high-tying 10 strikeouts. Carpenter allowed three runs and six hits over seven innings.

His counterpart from that game, Edwin Jackson (3-6, 5.38), will also start Sunday. The Diamondbacks right-hander yielded four runs over eight innings in the April 21 loss, falling to 0-2 with a 3.72 ERA in three career starts versus the Cardinals.

Seeing Jackson could help several slumping Cardinals. Yadier Molina (5 for 6), Colby Rasmus (4 for 6), Aaron Miles (3 for 7), Holliday (4 for 10) and Albert Pujols (3 for 9) have all had success against him.

Jackson allowed four runs and nine hits over six innings Tuesday night against Atlanta and did not get a decision in a 7-5 home defeat.


STATS Writer