After a rough start, the Cincinnati Reds will be looking to end their nine-game homestand with a flourish while the visiting St. Louis Cardinals will be trying to reverse a trend they haven't suffered through in 18 years when the two teams meet Sunday afternoon.
The Reds beat the Cardinals, 5-3,Saturday night, giving Cincinnati three wins in four games after opening their homestand with four straight losses. The Reds can earn their second sweep of the season over St. Louis with a win on Sunday.
The Reds have beaten the Cardinals six straight times, something that -- before Saturday -- hadn't occurred since May 5-14, 2003.
The Cardinals were down 3-1 Saturday night entering the seventh against Luis Castillo when they started getting to the Cincinnati starter. Dylan Carlson drove a Castillo pitch deep to the warning track with a runner on. The potential game-tying home run faded at the wall, and Reds center fielder Shogo Akiyama made a leaping catch to end the inning.
In the eighth, the Cardinals had several more hard-hit balls for base hits off reliever Brad Brach. But a deep fly by Tyler O'Neill was caught by Akiyama, and Eugenio Suarez caught a Harrison Bader liner down the line with two runners on to protect the Reds' lead.
"A couple balls stayed in the park that a lot of us thought would have a chance to get out," Bader said. "When you consistently put the ball in play like that, that's all you can really do."
Yadier Molina missed his second straight game Saturday with a stiff neck after a scheduled off day on Friday.
The Reds have responded after losing five of their first six games on their nine-game homestand.
"No panic, really," said shortstop Kyle Farmer, who was 3-for-4 with a home run and scored the game-winning run in Friday's 6-5 win over St. Louis. "I don't even think guys look at the scoreboard, honestly, in the dugout. We just kind of (go) about our business, kind of had to keep our confidence going."
Reds manager David Bell, who played in St. Louis during his career, still has respect for the Cardinals, who fell below .500 with Saturday's loss.
"They are still in it and are a really good team," Bell said. "It takes your best baseball to play with them and to hopefully win games. Every one of them is important. They're fun to be a part of. These games are within our division, and hopefully, they're enjoyable to watch."
The Cardinals send right-hander Johan Oviedo (0-5, 4.81 ERA) in the series finale. Oviedo has made one start in 2020 and 2021 against the Reds without a decision. Oviedo's only appearance against the Reds this season came on June 5 in St. Louis, when he pitched four innings, allowing two runs on three hits in a 5-2 Cardinals loss.
The Cardinals are 0-10 in Oviedo's 10 career starts vs. NL Central opponents, with the righty posting a 5.21 ERA over 46 2/3 innings.
The Reds send right-hander Sonny Gray (2-5, 3.65) to the mound looking for the series sweep.
Gray will be making his second start this season against St. Louis, taking the loss in a 5-4 Cardinals win on April 23 at St. Louis. He was tagged for six hits and five earned runs over 3 2/3 innings. Lifetime, Gray is 1-3 in six starts against St. Louis with a 5.00 ERA.
--Field Level Media