The St. Louis Cardinals won't read too much into their rough start to September.
Instead, they'll try to rebound from their most lopsided defeat of the season Friday night against the host Cincinnati Reds.
After opening the month with a come-from-behind 8-5 victory over Washington for its fourth consecutive win, St. Louis has been outscored 52-20 and shut out twice while losing six of eight. The Cardinals (88-52) still have the best record in baseball and a 4 1/2-game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central.
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"I think as much adversity as we can face, it's going to be beneficial to us down the stretch," closer Trevor Rosenthal told MLB's official website.
The Cardinals were held to five hits for a second straight game Thursday and lost 11-0 in the series opener at Cincinnati (58-81). That matched the most runs they've allowed all year.
"During the course of a season, you're bound to have some ups and some downs, and it's good to get them out of your system at this point, I think, and not in the playoffs," said rookie outfielder Stephen Piscotty, who is 4 for 11 in the last three contests.
St. Louis starters have a 12.06 ERA in four games since John Lackey (11-9, 2.90 ERA) gave up three runs and 10 hits in 7 1-3 innings of Sunday's 7-1 loss to the Pirates.
The right-hander, however, is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in three starts at Cincinnati - all Cardinals losses - since joining St. Louis at the 2014 trade deadline. The loss came Aug. 4 when Lackey yielded three runs in six innings of a 3-2 defeat.
Joey Votto is 3 for 8 with two home runs against Lackey.
One night after Votto unleashed a tirade toward home-plate umpire Bill Welke in Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Pirates, the Reds star had not heard from Major League Baseball about the incident but went 2 for 4 with an RBI.
"I'm not going to talk about the exchange (Wednesday) night," said Votto, batting .442 in his last 13 games.
Michael Lorenzen (4-8, 5.54) had gone 0-6 with an 8.62 ERA in his previous nine starts before winning Sunday, when he matched a season high by allowing eight hits but yielded two runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-3 victory over Milwaukee. It was the rookie right-hander's second start since he returned from a brief stint at Triple-A Louisville to work on his mechanics.
"Getting ahead and throwing strikes is what I was working on," he said after his first victory since June 21. "I had to stop worrying about what the batter was going to do with the pitch."
Lorenzen has walked only two batters since being recalled but still has a dreadful ratio of 4.92 walks per nine innings. He walked four and allowed three runs against St. Louis in a 3-0 loss Aug. 6.
Kolten Wong delivered a two-run single off Lorenzen in that contest, but the second baseman could be out of the starting lineup for a fifth consecutive game due to a calf issue.
It's also uncertain if teammate Randal Grichuk will be in the lineup after a nagging elbow injury limited him to a pinch-hitting role Thursday.