Cards eye playoff spot in opener with Reds

The St. Louis Cardinals are nearing a playoff spot and will try to move closer to that goal Monday in the opener of a three-game series versus the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals' magic number to seal up the final wild card spot in the National League is down to two and the club has won six of the last eight games. St. Louis won two of three matchups with Washington over the weekend and recorded a 10-4 triumph in Sunday's series finale even though winning pitcher Lance Lynn gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Lynn improved to 18-7 on the season and struck out nine batters.

Carlos Beltran homered twice and finished with five RBI for St. Louis, which is two games ahead of Los Angeles for the last postseason spot.

"There's a lot of teams that would love to be in the position that we are in," Beltran said. "You know, competing for a chance to get in the playoffs. We're playing really good as a team right now."

Beltran is three RBI away from his first 100-RBI season since 2008.

Jaime Garcia gets the start for the Cardinals this evening and is 6-7 with a 3.99 earned run average through 19 starts. Garcia has won two starts in a row and is 3-1 over his last four decisions, and defeated Houston the previous time out in a 4-0 win last Tuesday.

Garcia delivered seven scoreless innings and scattered six hits. He has faced Cincinnati 12 times in his career (10 starts), going 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA.

Meanwhile, the NL Central-champion Reds are tied with Washington for the best record in baseball and are coming off a series triumph at Pittsburgh.

In Sunday's 4-3 victory at PNC Park, Zack Cozart hit a go-ahead RBI double with two out as part of a two-run ninth inning, while Sean Marshall hurled a 1-2-3 eighth to pick up the win. Aroldis Chapman struck out two during a scoreless ninth and tallied his 37th save of the season.

Gunning for the club's first 20-game winner since Danny Jackson in 1988, Johnny Cueto surrendered three runs -- one earned -- on six hits in seven innings for the no-decision.

"I really, really want to give Johnny every opportunity to get 20 wins, but it was just one of those things that didn't work out," Reds interim manager Chris Speier said.

Reds manager Dusty Baker is expected to be back in the dugout tonight and has been recovering from an irregular heartbeat and mini stroke.

Bronson Arroyo will start for the Reds tonight and he is 12-9 with a 3.70 earned run average in 31 starts. He is 0-2 in his past three outings and was beaten by Milwaukee in last Wednesday's 8-1 loss in which he allowed four runs in six innings.

Arroyo, a right-hander and Key West native, has faced St. Louis 32 times (30 starts) in his career and is 8-12 with a 4.54 ERA.

The Reds and Cardinals have split 12 meetings this season, but Cincinnati has won five of the last seven encounters.