The St. Louis Cardinals will try to maintain their upper hand on the visiting Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
The NL Central rivals split the first two games of this three-game series, but the Cardinals have won six of nine games against the Reds this season.
The Cardinals (20-19) are in second place, three games back of the division-leading Chicago Cubs. The Reds (20-26) are 6 1/2 games off the pace.
The Cardinals will start Carlos Martinez (0-2, 12.27 ERA). In his first start since recovering from his COVID-19 infection, Martinez allowed four runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings in a 7-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
Martinez was the Cardinals’ closer last season, but he hoped to return to the starting rotation. And he finally did — with Johan Oviedo (COVID-19 quarantine) and Kwang Hyun Kim (kidney ailment) sidelined and doubleheaders stacking up.
“It worked out that he’s going back in the rotation,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “It’s what he wanted, and ultimately it’s turned out what we needed. The guys in the bullpen had stepped up. We got some pieces.”
Since then, closer Giovanny Gallegos landed on the injured list with a groin muscle strain and Genesis Cabrera exited Saturday night’s 7-1 Cardinals victory without throwing a pitch due to a cracked fingernail.
Shildt plans on using a closer-by-committee approach and plug rookie Seth Elledge into middle relief.
“Elledge getting strikes, strikes, trusting their stuff in the zone,” Shildt said. “It’s a great sign for any pitcher, but it’s a hurdle for young pitchers. Elledge is coming around, and continually getting better. He’s realizing his stuff is plenty good enough, which it is, of course.”
Tyler Mahle (1-2, 3.89 ERA) will start for the Reds. He faced the Cardinals on Sept. 2, allowing three runs on four hits over seven innings in a no-decision as the Reds won 4-3.
In his last three starts overall, Mahle has held opponents to eight runs in 20 2/3 innings for a 3.48 ERA. Mahle struck out 10 batters in his last start, a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
“He showed last year and really, the last three starts, that he just continues to get stronger during the game,” Reds manager David Bell said after that game.
“He’s a big, strong guy. He just keeps getting better and has the ability to go deep into games. I don’t know that I’ve ever really seen a starter that really consistently just gets stronger as the game goes on like he does,” Bell said.
Mahle is 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA in seven career starts against the Cardinals. But he has had success against Matt Carpenter (1-for-15, six strikeouts), Tommy Edman (1-for-9, three strikeouts) and Paul DeJong (2-for-14, three strikeouts).
On the other hand, Yadier Molina is 8-for-15 in his career against Mahle with two homers and five RBIs.
The Reds could get infielder Mike Moustakas back in the lineup. He was available for pinch-hitting the previous two games while recovering from a bruised foot.
But Jesse Winker has remained sidelined by a sore back, and pitcher Wade Miley is out with a sore shoulder.
“Just some continued muscle soreness,” Bell said. “Nothing overly concerning or anything that’s going to knock him out for the year or anything like that, but did need to back him off on his throwing. No timetable to get him back into the game, unfortunately.”
–Field Level Media