The St. Louis Cardinals are back home for a 10-game stay and will host the NL Central-rival Pittsburgh Pirates tonight in the opener of a three-game series at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals and Pirates are currently jockeying for position in the division standings, as Pittsburgh sits one game behind Cincinnati for the lead and St. Louis is only one-half game out of second place.
St. Louis went 6-3 on its recent road trip, but had a five-game winning streak stopped with Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Miami Marlins. Tony Cruz homered and David Freese added two hits and an RBI in defeat. Joe Kelly pitched well in the start and did not record a decision with six innings of two-run ball.
Sam Freeman allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh inning to absorb the loss.
"Five consecutive wins is always a positive," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "They guys need to remember that. That was a good run."
Hoping to get the Cardinals back on track Friday will be Adam Wainwright. He has won four of his last six decisions and pitched well in his previous outing, an 8-2 win at Kansas City on Saturday. Wainwright held the Royals to two runs in seven innings to improve to 6-7 in 15 starts with a 4.32 ERA.
Wainwright, a right-hander, defeated Pittsburgh on May 1 this season and yielded four runs in seven innings of a 10-7 victory. He is 8-3 with a 4.79 ERA in 18 career meetings (14 starts) with the Pirates.
St. Louis will also entertain Colorado and Miami on the residency. Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran is one hit away from 2,000 in his career. He also needs one home run for 200 in the National League.
Meanwhile, the Pirates split a four-game series in Philadelphia to begin a seven-game road trip and recorded a 5-4 win Thursday afternoon.
Pittsburgh set the tone early with five runs in the first inning, as Casey McGehee hit a three-run homer and Pedro Alvarez clubbed a solo homer in the decisive opening frame. Garrett Jones had two hits and an RBI for the Pirates, winners in eight of their last 12 games.
The five runs were enough to give A.J. Burnett the win, as he limited the Phillies to three runs in 6 2/3 innings for his eighth straight win. Joel Hanrahan later posted his 20th save in the ninth inning.
Pittsburgh will send Kevin Correia to the mound Friday and he is 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA over his last two starts. Correia did not figure into the decision of a 3-2 loss to Detroit on Sunday and permitted a pair of runs and six hits in six innings of work.
Correia, who is just 3-6 in 14 starts with a 4.03 ERA, will try to even his career record against the Cardinals tonight. The right-hander is 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 13 career games, six of which have been starts, against St. Louis.
The Pirates have lost four of six matchups with St. Louis this season and 10 of the past 14 meetings in this series.