Adam Wainwright has a chance to keep his St. Louis Cardinals in first place, but must rebound against the club that battered him around last week in the shortest start of his career.
Wainwright squares off again on Monday afternoon against the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a four-game series.
The Reds got to Wainwright for a 10-0 victory last Wednesday, with the Cardinals hurler giving up a career-worst nine runs. He yielded eight hits and two walks in the loss, needing 53 pitches to record just six outs after hurling a season-high 128 pitches in a complete-game victroy over Atlanta on Aug. 23.
The brutal outing dropped the righty to 15-8 with a 2.96 earned run average in 28 starts.
"Today is just something I'm going to forget about," Wainwright said. "I pitched terrible and that's why we lost the game."
The outing snapped Wainwright's string of seven straight outings of at least seven innings pitched and he'll try to get on track in his fourth start of the season versus the Reds. The 32-year-old is 5-8 against them lifetime with a 4.84 ERA in 19 games (14 starts).
The Cardinals avoided a three-game sweep at the hands of Pittsburgh on Sunday, using a 7-2 victory to move back into a tie atop the NL Central with the Pirates. They have Joe Kelly to thank for that after he held Pittsburgh to one run over six innings, moving to 7-0 in 10 starts since joining the rotation full time in early July.
"This is as good as we've seen him for an extended period of time," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said of Kelly. "I think it's pretty exciting to think about how much better he can be."
The offense also did its part, logging 12 hits after getting held to just a run over a three-game slide. Matt Holliday and David Freese each knocked in a pair of runs.
St. Louis did its damage without Carlos Beltran in the starting lineup. He sat out because of tightness in his back, an issue that caused him to exit Saturday's game early as well.
The Cards have split the first six contests of a 13-game string against the Reds and Pirates. St. Louis hosts Pittsburgh this weekend for three games.
The Cardinals took two of three from the Reds to begin last week and have claimed 10 of the 15 meetings this year.
Cincinnati will send its ace to the hill today in Mat Latos, who tries to match his career high for wins in a season after taking a loss to the Cardinals last time out.
Latos is 13-5 with a 3.03 ERA through 27 starts, one off his personal high of 14 wins set in 2010 with San Diego and matched last year with Cincinnati.
The righty was denied his first chance to match the mark, allowing four runs on nine hits over six innings of a 13-5 defeat to the Cards on Tuesday.
While far from a bad outing, Latos did surpass his run total allowed over his first four starts of August, having allowed just three runs ahead of the matchup.
"This is just the way baseball goes," said Latos. "It is frustrating but they're a good team and things aren't falling for us as of late."
Latos, 25, fell to 4-5 with a 6.25 ERA in 11 career meetings with the Cardinals.
The Reds begin a 10-game homestand today following a 2-4 road trip. They dropped the rubber match of a three-game set with Colorado on Sunday, 7-4.
Chris Heisey had a career-high four hits, but left in the eighth inning with a left hamstring cramp. Shin Soo-Choo added a two-run homer among his three hits, but Cincinnati went 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.
"We had a bunch of guys on base, but couldn't seem to get those big hits," Heisey said.
Mike Leake had a forgettable outing, giving up six runs on eight hits and two walks over 4 1/3 frames to absorb the loss.
Cincinnati, though, still has a six-game lead for the NL's second wild card spot and is 3 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central.