Veteran lefty Erik Bedard aims for a third straight win in a big spot today when the Pittsburgh Pirates visit St. Louis for the second of three weekend games with the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The Pirates broke on top of the series with a 2-1 win Friday and maintained their position in the National League's playoff chase, which has them two games ahead of the Cardinals for the second of two available Wild Card playoff berths.
Atlanta holds the No. 1 spot and has a four-game lead over Pittsburgh, which also leads the Los Angeles Dodgers by 1 1/2 games and Arizona by six for the No. 2 position.
The Pirates and Cardinals are pursuing the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. The Reds won Friday to maintain a six-game edge on Pittsburgh and pushed their advantage over St. Louis to eight games.
On Friday, Pittsburgh starter James McDonald (11-5) struck out seven and walked three to earn his first victory since July 18 (five starts). Joel Hanrahan fired a scoreless ninth to nail down his NL-leading 34th save.
"I just told myself I'm doing this for my teammates and me, just to go out there and have fun," McDonald said. "Don't worry about what other people say, just go out there and compete and play the game of baseball. I don't need the extra distractions to make it harder than what it is."
Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen each scored a run for the Pirates, who won their second straight.
Jake Westbrook (12-9) allowed just two runs - one earned - on six hits and three walks over 7 2/3 frames despite receiving the loss.
Tony Cruz knocked in the lone run for the Cardinals, as they dropped their second straight.
Pittsburgh's Bedard, a 33-year-old Canadian, sank to 5-12 on the season after just 4 1/3 innings of a 14-4 drubbing against the Chicago Cubs on July 30, but has since bounced back for two straight wins.
He defeated Arizona on Aug. 6 and San Diego six days later while combining to allow seven hits and five runs across 12 innings and lowering his earned run average from 4.83 to 4.56.
He's 1-2 lifetime against the Cardinals and last faced them on July 1 in St. Louis, coming up on the losing end of a 5-4 decision after allowing five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Bedard is 3-8 in 11 road starts in 2012 with a bloated 6.75 ERA.
The Cardinals counter with 25-year-old righty Lance Lynn, who's seeking a first win in his fourth August start.
The Indiana native improved to 13-4 this season with a 9-6 defeat of the Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 27, but is 0-1 in three starts this month while allowing 19 hits and 10 runs in 17 innings.
He dropped a 7-3 verdict to the Pirates on June 30 in St. Louis after being touched for six runs on seven hits in five innings.
He's 6-3 in nine home starts this season while allowing a .221 opposition batting average.
St. Louis won five of the first nine games between the teams in 2012, but the Pirates won two of three in the most recent series from June 29-July 1 at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals won last year's season series, 9-7, while Pittsburgh last won in 2008.