Cards hope to punch playoff ticket vs. Reds

One more win and the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals will be headed back to the postseason.

The Cardinals look to punch their ticket to the dance tonight in the second portion of a three-game series versus the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis moved a step closer to locking up the final wild card berth in the National League with Monday's 4-2 series-opening win over the Reds, as starting pitcher Jaime Garcia threw six innings of two-run ball, struck out six and hit a solo home run.

"Anytime you can help yourself offensively, whether its a home run, hit or bunt, whatever it is it's exciting," Garcia said.

Jason Motte tossed a perfect ninth inning to record his 41st save.

Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and Daniel Descalso had an RBI apiece to help St. Louis to its 11th win in 14 tries. The Cardinals are two games ahead of Los Angeles in the wild card standings with two to play, while the Dodgers are hosting San Francisco again this evening.

Chris Carpenter will have the honors of pitching St. Louis to the postseason when he makes his third start of the season Tuesday. Carpenter is back on the mound after a right shoulder problem and is 0-1 with a 3.27 earned run average in two appearances. He lost at Houston last Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat and yielded both runs in six innings.

Carpenter hopes to continue his success against the Reds and is 14-4 with a 2.48 ERA in 23 career starts.

The Reds already have the NL Central crown locked up and entered last night's game having won nine of 13 games.

Bronson Arroyo was dealt the loss after he gave up three runs and six hits in five innings of work.

"Bronson has been pitching a lot better than his record indicates," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, who was back on the bench after missing time with an irregular heartbeat and mini-stroke. "He just needs to keep pitching like this and we'll get him some runs."

Drew Stubbs had two hits and a run scored, while Brandon Phillips and Ryan Hanigan each drove in a run.

Cincinnati is still in the running for the best record in baseball at 96-64, but the NL East-champion Washington Nationals share the same mark.

Mat Latos will have his final tuneup before the playoffs commence and is 13-4 with a 3.52 earned run average in 32 starts. He did not factor in the outcome of a 2-1 win over Milwaukee last Thursday and allowed only a run and three hits in seven innings. The Reds have won six straight starts by Latos.

The right-hander, who is 3-0 in his previous six outings, lost to St. Louis on Aug. 24 in an 8-5 setback and permitted seven runs and nine hits in five innings. Latos only is 1-4 with a disappointing 10.24 ERA in six career starts against the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are 7-6 against the Reds this season.