One good week pulled the St. Louis Cardinals within two games of the division-leading Chicago Cubs in the National League Central. With another good week, beginning on Tuesday when they host the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a three-game series, the Cardinals could find themselves back on top.
St. Louis swept Pittsburgh over the weekend to begin its homestand and has won of nine of their last 11 games behind a pitching staff allowing an average of two runs in those 11 contests. “I think there’s more energy, just due to the fact that we’re getting close,” Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk said, according to MLB.com. “The division isn’t out of reach, and we know we have a chance to win it. And if not, make a wild-card. We can feel the playoffs aren’t too far away, and it’s in our grasp.” The playoffs have never really been the plan for the rebuilding Reds, who sit in the Central basement but will have say in how the division shakes out with a total of 12 games remaining against St. Louis, Milwaukee and Chicago. Cincinnati right-hander Robert Stephenson will try to slow down the Cardinals’ offense on Tuesday while Lance Lynn toes the rubber for St. Louis.
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, FSN Ohio (Cincinnati), FSN Midwest (St. Louis)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Reds RH Robert Stephenson (4-4, 5.15 ERA) vs. Cardinals RH Lance Lynn (10-7, 2.94)
Stephenson earned the win in each of his last four outings and is coming off a strong start against Milwaukee last Tuesday, in which he surrendered one run and four hits while working around five walks. The 24-year-old fanned seven against the Brewers and owns 25 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings over his last three outings. Stephenson made his season debut in relief at St. Louis on Apr. 8 and struggled to find the zone while issuing six walks in 1 2/3 frames.
Lynn is winless in his last six outings despite surrendering two or fewer earned runs in five of those turns. The Ole Miss product yielded one run and six hits across six innings at San Diego on Thursday but took the loss in a 3-0 final. Lynn’s last win came at Cincinnati on Aug. 5, when he struck out four and permitted one run and three hits across six innings.
1. Cardinals CF Dexter Fowler had an MRI come back clean on a bruised knee suffered Saturday, but he sat out Sunday and remains day-to-day.
2. Cincinnati LF Adam Duvall is 4-for-28 over his last eight games.
3. St. Louis OF Tommy Pham (blurred vision) was out of the lineup on Sunday and is day-to-day.
PREDICTION: Reds 8, Cardinals 7