Another big Sunday game is in Minnesota where the Twins and Cleveland Indians close out their series that was shortened by a rainout on Friday.
Cincinnati and St. Louis have become the National League Central Division version of the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry.
Certainly there is no love lost when the Reds and Cardinals meet as they will Sunday night in the finale of a three-game series. ESPN will televise the matchup beginning at 5:00 p.m. (PT).
Things became really bitter and heated between the two clubs last year when the Reds captured their first division title since 1995.
Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips made some incendiary comments about the Cardinals, which may have set in motion a bench-clearing brawl last August in Cincinnati. During that brawl, Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto kicked Cardinals backup catcher Jason LaRue in the head. The injury ended LaRue’s career.
Cueto is on the disabled list and the Cardinals really can’t risk a fight since they already have six players on the DL. But the atmosphere is sure to be high-charged for this nationally televised matchup.
Already there is bad blood this season with one report saying Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes sang in celebration during spring training when finding out that Cardinals ace right-hander Adam Wainwright is out for the season with a major elbow injury. Gomes strongly denied that report.
Some Cardinal fans have picked up on Reds pitcher Mike Leake recently being arrested for shoplifting by wearing t-shirts that read, “Mike Leake Stole this Shirt For Me.”
Cincinnati is a growing power with a number of rising young players. The Cardinals’ key players are older and the team is more banged-up than the Reds.
Still, the Cardinals have owned the Reds through the years especially at Busch Stadium where they have gone 25-10 versus Cincinnati the last 35 times through this past Friday.
The Reds have been far less intimidating away from Great American Ball Park dropping 16 of their last 23 road contests through this past Friday. They were 3-14 in their last 17 games versus foes with a winning mark.
St. Louis took 12 of 18 games from the Reds in last year. The Cardinals are 7-1 during the past eight meetings between the two clubs entering the weekend.
Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are heating up after slow starts, which is bad news for Reds pitcher Sam LeCure, who will be making his fourth start of the season.
Pujols went into the series batting .351 with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games, while Holliday was hitting .538 during his past seven games. Holliday feasted on Reds pitching batting .483 with two homers and 12 RBIs during the last nine times he faced the Reds in 2010.
LeCure, a 26-year-old righty, surrendered four homers in his last start, a 5-4 loss to Arizona this past Tuesday. LeCure gave up five earned runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings losing as a 150 home favorite against Armando Galarraga. The combined nine runs dipped ‘under’ the 9 ½-run total.
LeCure was dynamic in his first two starts with 14 strikeouts compared to only eight hits and walks combined. However, he faced a pair of weak offenses in Houston and San Diego at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. He didn’t receive a decision in either of those games despite allowing just three earned runs in 11 innings.
The Cardinals didn’t decide on their probable Sunday starter until late Friday night choosing to go with righty Jake Westbrook on three days rest.
Westbrook is 1-2 with a 9.82 ERA in four starts this season. He had his shortest outing in five years during his last start, giving up seven runs in three innings to Washington this past Wednesday.
Westbrook lost, 8-6, as a 145 home favorite against the Nationals’ John Lannan. The combined 14 runs flew ‘over’ the 8 ½-run total.
The ‘over’ is 7-3-1 in St. Louis’ last 11 games going into this weekend. The ‘under’ is 11-4-1, though, during the Cardinals’ last 16 home contests.
Weather played a factor in St. Louis' Friday night win to open the series, and could once again play a factor Sunday when the forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain.
John Hirschbeck is the scheduled plate arbiter with the 'under' cashing twice in his previous four dish assignments this season along with one 'push.' The 28-year veteran was 17-13-1 to the low side in 2010.