Cards visit D-backs aiming to move closer to NL Central crown

( - The St. Louis Cardinals will try to inch closer to a National League Central title when they begin a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday from Chase Field.

The Cardinals hold a one-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates for division supremacy and have lost three of four games since winning four straight.

St. Louis just dropped two of three with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field and suffered a 3-1 loss on Thursday, as John Lackey was outdueled by Jake Arrieta and gave up two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. Arrieta struck out 10 and gave up an unearned run in seven innings.

Yadier Molina had two of the Cardinals' five hits and scored on a throwing error in the fifth inning.

"We have to take care of our own business," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "No one has helped us all season long, why would they start now."

St. Louis' magic number for a second straight NL Central title is three.

Michael Wacha will take the mound for the Cards Friday and is 5-6 with a 3.18 earned run average. Wacha is only 1-3 in his last four decisions and did not factor in the outcome of last Saturday's 8-4 win over Cincinnati. He allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Wacha has struggled on the road this season, going 0-6 in nine chances, and has no record and a 5.06 ERA in two career starts against Arizona.

The Diamondbacks will close out what has been a disappointing season and are 6-17 this month. They lost two of three games in Minnesota and are coming off Wednesday's 2-1 loss in the series finale.

Vidal Nuno fell to 0-7 after he permitted two runs in five innings, while Twins starter Phil Hughes fired eight innings of one-run ball.

"I was trying to nibble and the umpire was not giving me stuff that was close around the strike zone," Nuno said.

David Peralta was credited with the lone RBI for Arizona on a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

In front office news for the D-backs, Dave Stewart was named general manager on Thursday. Stewart, of course, pitched for D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa when the two were together in Oakland.

"I've known Stew for nearly three decades, and his diverse background includes championships on the field as both a player and coach, in the front office and in contract negotiation as a player representative," La Russa said.

Trevor Cahill gets the call for Arizona Friday and is only 3-12 with a 5.55 earned run average. Cahill is winless (0-4) in his last six outings and was touched for five runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 5-1 loss at Colorado last Saturday.

Cahill has allowed at least three runs in five straight trips to the mound and is aiming for his first win against the Cardinals. In six games (4 starts) against St. Louis, Cahill is 0-3 with a 4.01 ERA.

St. Louis swept a three-game set from Arizona at Busch Stadium in May.