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Cardinals look to continue surge vs. reeling Reds

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The St. Louis Cardinals will continue their push for the National League Central title when they conclude a five-game home series with the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon.

The Cardinals (87-60) swept the Reds in a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on Saturday to increase their lead over the second-place Milwaukee Brewers to eight games.

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St. Louis, which recorded a 5-1 victory in the opener and a 1-0 triumph in 11 innings in the nightcap, has won six of its last eight games. The Reds (57-89), in turn, have lost nine of their past 10 games.

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Cardinals starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery (8-4, 3.20 ERA) will look to rebound after suffering an 8-4 loss to the Brewers in his last start.

The left-hander allowed six runs (four earned) on seven hits in five innings. He struck out six batters and walked one.

Montgomery is 5-1 with a 2.05 ERA in eight starts since coming from the New York Yankees in a trade last month. He hasn’t faced the Reds this season and he won his only career start against them while allowing just one run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings.

The Cardinals adjusted their outfield in mid-series, putting Tyler O’Neill (hamstring strain) on the injured list and bringing Dylan Carlson (thumb strain) off the IL.

Carlson played just one rehabilitation game for Triple-A Memphis before getting recalled. He hit a double in his first game back Saturday.

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“I’m ready to roll,” Carlson said. “Based off how yesterday went and how it feels today, I think we’re in a good spot.”

Albert Pujols hit his 698th homer Friday night, then went 0-for-3 with two walks in Game 1 Saturday and 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter in Game 2.

“When you love the game and respect what players do and the difficulty of it and then you see somebody excel at that level and do it for that long at that high of a level, it’s amazing, really,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Any time you’re part of a big moment like that, the crowd is big part of it, just the energy, if you’re human it’s hard not to be moved by that even when you are on the wrong side of it.”

The Reds will give right-hander Luis Cessa (3-3, 5.25) his seventh start after using him out of the bullpen for most of the season.

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Cessa suffered a 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in his last start after allowing five runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five batters and walked one.

“A couple first pitches, that was the key to my outing,” Cessa said. “They were aggressive early in the count. I threw 90 plus pitches. That’s a good sign. I 100-percent prefer to be a starter.”

He faced the Cardinals three times in relief earlier this season, working a scoreless inning each time. He allowed two hits and a walk and struck out three batters in those outings.

Pujols is 0-for-4 with a walk against Cessa in his career. Corey Dickerson (3-for-9, double, two homers, three RBIs) has done damage against him

The Cardinals also adjusted their bullpen, putting Jordan Hicks on the 15-day IL with arm fatigue and activating Steven Matz between games Saturday after his recovery from a knee sprain. Martz earned the Game 2 victory in relief.

–Field Level Media

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