Cardinals aim for wild card spot; Dodgers face must-win

The Sports Network
10/2/2012 11:13:22 AM
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Cincinnati Reds (96-64) at St. Louis Cardinals (87-73) - 8:15pm et

(Sports Network) - One more win and the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals will be headed back to the postseason.

The Cardinals look to punch their ticket to the dance tonight in the second portion of a three-game series versus the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis moved a step closer to locking up the final wild card berth in the National League with Monday's 4-2 series-opening win over the Reds, as starting pitcher Jaime Garcia threw six innings of two-run ball, struck out six and hit a solo home run.

"Anytime you can help yourself offensively, whether its a home run, hit or bunt, whatever it is it's exciting," Garcia said.

Jason Motte tossed a perfect ninth inning to record his 41st save.

Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and Daniel Descalso had an RBI apiece to help St. Louis to its 11th win in 14 tries. The Cardinals are two games ahead of Los Angeles in the wild card standings with two to play, while the Dodgers are hosting San Francisco again this evening.

Chris Carpenter will have the honors of pitching St. Louis to the postseason when he makes his third start of the season Tuesday. Carpenter is back on the mound after a right shoulder problem and is 0-1 with a 3.27 earned run average in two appearances. He lost at Houston last Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat and yielded both runs in six innings.

Carpenter hopes to continue his success against the Reds and is 14-4 with a 2.48 ERA in 23 career starts.

The Reds already have the NL Central crown locked up and entered last night's game having won nine of 13 games.

Bronson Arroyo was dealt the loss after he gave up three runs and six hits in five innings of work.

"Bronson has been pitching a lot better than his record indicates," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, who was back on the bench after missing time with an irregular heartbeat and mini-stroke. "He just needs to keep pitching like this and we'll get him some runs."

Drew Stubbs had two hits and a run scored, while Brandon Phillips and Ryan Hanigan each drove in a run.

Cincinnati is still in the running for the best record in baseball at 96-64, but the NL East-champion Washington Nationals share the same mark.

Mat Latos will have his final tuneup before the playoffs commence and is 13-4 with a 3.52 earned run average in 32 starts. He did not factor in the outcome of a 2-1 win over Milwaukee last Thursday and allowed only a run and three hits in seven innings. The Reds have won six straight starts by Latos.

The right-hander, who is 3-0 in his previous six outings, lost to St. Louis on Aug. 24 in an 8-5 setback and permitted seven runs and nine hits in five innings. Latos only is 1-4 with a disappointing 10.24 ERA in six career starts against the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are 7-6 against the Reds this season.

San Francisco Giants (93-67) at Los Angeles Dodgers (85-75) - 10:10pm et

(Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Dodgers did their part, but didn't get the help they needed.

Hoping to stay in the NL wild card race for one more day, the Dodgers resume their three-game series on Tuesday night with the division-champion San Francisco Giants.

The Dodgers got a game-winning single from Elian Herrera in the bottom of the ninth in Monday's opener, a hit that plated Hanley Ramirez and gave the club a 3-2 win. Los Angeles extended its winning streak to a season high-tying six straight games.

"One of the biggest hits of my career," Herrera said. "I spent 10 years in the minors and this is my first walk-off. This is a dream come true."

The victory also kept the Dodgers two games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL's final playoff spot. Los Angeles will be eliminated from the race with its next loss or one win by St. Louis. Should the Dodgers win both of its remaining games and the Cardinals drop two in a row to the NL Central-champion Cincinnati Reds tonight and Wednesday, the two clubs will engage in a one-game playoff on Thursday.

"We're doing what we talked about doing ... forcing (the Cardinals) to win games and all we can control is ourselves and take care of our job," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "The guys are still fighting."

Aaron Harang started the game for the Dodgers and allowed one run on two hits and two walks over six innings, while Matt Cain, who manager Bruce Bochy named the starter for San Francisco's first playoff game prior to the contest, surrendered two runs on four hits and a walk in a five-inning start for the NL West-champion Giants.

"Sixty-eight pitches, that was the plan for Matt," Bochy said about Cain. "He threw well tonight. A solid five innings, that was just enough for him."

San Francisco has won five of its last seven versus Los Angeles and leads the season series 9-7.

Getting the ball for the Dodgers in this must-win game will be 34-year-old Chris Capuano, who was 9-4 before the All-Star break but has evened out to a 12-11 mark and 3.69 earned run average through 32 starts this season.

Capuano won for the first time in eight starts on Thursday, beating the San Diego Padres to halt a three-decision losing streak. The lefty allowed a run on five hits and four walks over 5 1/3 innings.

Capuano has struggled lifetime versus the Giants, going just 1-6 with a 5.21 ERA in 12 meetings, including eight starts.

The Dodgers will look to hand Barry Zito his first loss since Aug. 2 on Tuesday.

The southpaw has won four straight starts and six decisions in a row, while San Francisco has won each time out during his 10-start unbeaten streak.

Zito's string of four straight winning starts began versus the Dodgers on Sept. 9, an outing in which Zito allowed just four hits over 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

He then extended the streak on Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, charged with three runs on six hits and three walks over six frames of work.

"He's done a great job," said Bochy. "He's had a real nice year, and it's been fun to watch how he's bounced back and really put together a good year. He's pitched some big games for us and gotten wins when we really needed them."

The 34-year-old Zito is 14-8 with a 4.19 ERA in 31 starts this season, splitting four decisions versus the Dodgers with a 2.55 ERA.

Carlos Beltran (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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