With their postseason on the verge of slipping away, the St. Louis Cardinals came out swinging in the first two games of the series against the Cincinnati Reds. The visiting Cardinals have swatted six homers and scored 17 runs over the past two nights and look to complete a three-game sweep of the Reds on Thursday night at Great American Ball Park.
Dexter Fowler, the hero of the series-opening victory, has homered in three straight games while rookie Paul DeJong has gone deep in back-to-back contests to help St. Louis pull within 2 1/2 games of Colorado for the second wild card. Tommy Pham is 7-for-15 over the past three games to raise his batting average to .309, bolstering his bid to become the first Cardinal since 1900 to record 20 homers, 20 doubles, 20 steals and a .300 average in one season. Rookie outfielder Jesse Winker has hit safely in four straight games for the Reds, who have split 18 meetings with St. Louis this year. Homer Bailey, who has more career losses (6-12) against the Cardinals than any other opponent, will oppose Carlos Martinez in the series finale.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, FSN Midwest (St. Louis), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals RH Carlos Martínez (11-11, 3.57 ERA) vs. Reds RH Homer Bailey (5-8, 6.86)
Martinez had yielded three earned runs or fewer in eight consecutive starts, a streak that ended when he was pounded for a career-high seven runs over 5 1/3 innings of a loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday. It marked only the third time in 12 starts since the All-Star break that he failed to pitch six innings. Zack Cozart is 7-for-22 with a homer against Martinez, who is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA against the Reds this year.
Bailey has struggled to find consistency since returning from shoulder surgery, but went 5 2/3 innings last time out versus Pittsburgh, permitting one run on five hits while striking out seven. He had his worst start of the season at home against St. Louis on Aug. 6, when he was battered for 10 runs on 10 hits over 3 1/3 innings. Matt Carpenter (17-for-31) and Yadier Molina (15-for-39) have lit up Bailey.
1. Fowler, who has set a career high with 18 homers, is 8-for-16 with the three blasts and seven RBIs in the past four games.
2. Reds CF Billy Hamilton, who leads the majors with 58 stolen bases, was activated off the 10-day disabled list Wednesday.
3. Molina has five RBIs in the series to match his career best set in 2013.
PREDICTION: Cardinals 7, Reds 4