With just 15 games remaining and trailing three teams in the NL wild-card race, the St. Louis Cardinals can't afford to struggle against the worst team in their division.
The Cardinals hope to avoid a fourth straight loss as they continue a three-game series Saturday night against the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates.While Milwaukee, Houston and Philadelphia all had their games postponed because of rain, the Cardinals (78-69) failed to take advantage as they lost 10-2 in Friday's series opener.The loss dropped St. Louis five games behind the wild card-leading Brewers. The Cardinals also trail the Astros and Phillies by two games in that race.St. Louis had lost two of three to the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs entering this series, and it hoped to take advantage of a Pittsburgh team that had lost 17 of 20 and was outscored 25-9 by Houston in a four-game series. The Pirates (61-86), however, jumped on the Cardinals early Friday, scoring seven runs in four innings off starter Joel Pineiro.Paul Maholm pitched into the ninth inning, and Nate McLouth fell a single shy of the cycle, driving in five runs for the Pirates, who scored their most runs since a 12-11, 10-inning win over the Cardinals on July 12."It was a great game tonight," McLouth said. "With the 20 games we've had, it was just what we needed."With the loss, St. Louis fell to 7-8 against the Pirates this season. If Pittsburgh wins one of the final two games between the teams, it would win the season series for the first time since 1999.Adam Wainwright (9-3, 2.85 ERA) takes the mound for the Cardinals as they try to snap their losing streak.Wainwright won his fourth straight decision Sunday, allowing one run and six hits while striking out six in a 3-1 victory over Florida. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA since coming off the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 22."It just proves to me and to everyone else that I'm back ready to be out here and pitch until they take the ball from me," Wainwright told the Cardinals' official Web site. "After this game, hopefully everybody has enough confidence in me to just let me go as long as I can."Wainwright is 3-2 with a 4.70 ERA in six starts and four relief appearances against the Pirates. On June 2, he allowed five runs and seven hits over eight innings of a 5-4 loss.Jeff Karstens (2-5, 4.46) looks to avoid losing his sixth straight start when he counters for the Pirates.Karstens has a 7.11 ERA in his last five starts. He lasted three innings Sunday against San Francisco, allowing eight runs -- five earned -- and six hits in an 11-6 loss.The right-hander hasn't won since he pitched a two-hitter in a 2-0 victory at Arizona on Aug. 6. He has never faced the Cardinals.