The Reds opened the current series against the Cardinals on Monday with a chance to surpass their division rival for the top Wild Card spot in the National League by the middle of the week. On Wednesday, Cincinnati will hope to avoid leaving town completely empty-handed against now-first-place St. Louis.
In the tightest division race in baseball, the Reds head into Wednesday's series finale trailing the Cardinals by 4 1/2 games for the National League Central lead. The Pirates, who lost to the Brewers on Tuesday, sit 1 1/2 games back of first place.
Cincinnati will look to salvage something from this week's three-game set after dropping the first two games. That's easier said than done, though, for a team that has gone just 4-10 against St. Louis this season.
"You have to realize they put their pants on the same way we do," Reds manager Dusty Baker said referring to his team's struggles against the Cardinals. "We have to find a way to beat them."
St. Louis enters Wednesday with a 12-4 record since losing four straight Aug. 7-10. The Cardinals opened the current series with an 8-6 win on Monday, despite trailing 4-0 through two innings, before beating the Reds, 6-1, on Tuesday.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said on Tuesday that he can feel the intense atmosphere that comes along with a series between two highly competitive teams fighting for playoff position, and he especially felt it as St. Louis fought back on Monday.
"They're all big right now," Matheny said. "That's kind of the motto everybody says at this point in the season."
Reds: Bailey seeks first win in St. Louis
Right-hander Homer Bailey has started six games against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in his career. Not one time has he walked out of the park with a winning decision, going 0-5 with a 6.90 ERA.
He'll look to change that on Wednesday, when he takes the hill for his 27th start of the season.
Bailey has made two road starts against St. Louis this season, taking the loss and allowing nine hits in each of them. On April 10, those nine hits led to seven runs in five innings, while he limited the damage to four runs in 5 1/3 innings on May 1.
More recently, Bailey is coming off back-to-back starts against the Brewers, including six innings of work in which he gave up three runs on six hits and two walks on Friday.
• Since back-to-back hitless games on Aug. 17 and 19, Zack Cozart has gone 10-for-27 (.370), including a 1-for-3, one-walk effort on Tuesday. Baker, who has been giving Cozart things to work on in batting practice, said the shortstop has been more aggressive as of late.
"You just have to keep talking to them and stay positive with them," Baker said when discussing Cozart, who is batting .244 on the season. "It's difficult sometimes, especially when you're hitting the ball hard. How many times can you be told, 'Way to hit it' or 'Hang with them?' I know I've said it. You're like, 'I can only hear so many words, I want some hits.'"
Cardinals: Wainwright seeks to reverse home woes vs. Reds
Adam Wainwright will make his third start against the Reds this season. The right-hander split the previous two decisions, allowing two runs in seven innings in each outing. He took the loss in St. Louis, though, which is indicative of the fortune Wainwright has had at home against the Reds in his career.
Entering Wednesday, Wainwright has gone 1-4 with a 3.90 ERA in five starts against Cincinnati at Busch Stadium. His overall record against the Reds is 5-7 to go with a 4.01 ERA in 18 appearances (13 starts).
The good news for Wainwright and the Cardinals is that he's coming off his fifth complete game of the season, as he held the Braves to one run on six hits on Friday.
Wainwright, who has gone at least seven innings in seven straight starts, registered nine strikeouts against Atlanta, giving him 1,090 for his career and moving him past teammate Chris Carpenter for third all-time among Cardinals pitchers.
• With a 2-for-3 performance on Tuesday, outfielder Matt Holliday extended his hitting streak to seven games.
• The Reds have lost seven straight series against the Cardinals, but they'll look to avoid their first sweep during that losing streak.
• The Cardinals are two games into a stretch in which they play 13 games against the Reds and Pirates.
• St. Louis has doubled in 18 straight games.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.