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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Monday, August 25 (All times Eastern)

St. Louis Cardinals (70-59) at Pittsburgh Pirates (67-63), 7:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: St. Louis - John Lackey (1-1, 5.40) Pittsburgh - Francisco Liriano (3-10, 4.18)

(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of National League Central rivals collide once again with the St. Louis Cardinals set to visit the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday at PNC Park.

The Cardinals have a slim 7-6 edge over the Pirates in this season's series and are 4-1 in the previous five matchups between the clubs. Pittsburgh, though, has gone 5-0-1 in the last six series played against St. Louis at PNC Park.

St. Louis is aiming to get back on track after losing two of three games in Philadelphia this weekend and dropped a 7-1 decision in Sunday's rubber match, as Justin Masterson allowed five runs in three innings to absorb the loss.

Oscar Taveras had two hits and an RBI, while Jhonny Peralta was 2-for-3 with a run scored for the Cardinals, who are still 8-3 in the past 11 games and sit atop the NL wild card standings. The Cardinals are also 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for the NL Central lead.

"Our energy has been good all year, that hasn't an issue for us," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "Guys come prepared every day."

John Lackey will make his fifth start for St. Louis and is 1-1 with a 5.40 earned run average since coming over via trade with Boston. Lackey is 0-1 in his last three outings and has posted back-to-back no-decisions, including a 5-4 win over Cincinnati last Tuesday in which he allowed four runs -- two earned -- in six innings.

Lackey lost his only career start against the Pirates back on June 16, 2004 as a member of the Angels. In that 5-3 loss in the Steel City, Lackey permitted all five runs and eight hits in five innings.

Pittsburgh is 1 1/2 games off the second wild card spot and sits five games behind the Brewers for division bragging rights.

The Pirates had a three-game winning streak stopped with Sunday's 4-3 setback in Milwaukee and Vance Worley suffered the loss for giving up four runs and 12 hits across 6 1/3 innings.

Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte both homered for Pittsburgh, losers in eight of the past 11 games. McCutchen hit a one-out solo homer in the ninth to cap a 10-pitch at-bat against Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez that pulled the Bucs within 4-3.

"I feel good enough to hit a homer in the ninth against a closer, so ... I guess that's your answer," McCutchen said when asked about his first week back from a broken rib.

Pittsburgh will also host Cincinnati for three games on this six-game stay and hopes Francisco Liriano can pitch the club back into the win column Monday. Liriano is 3-10 with a 4.18 earned run average in 22 starts and has lost his past three trips to the mound, including Tuesday's 11-3 defeat to Atlanta. The Braves pounded the left-hander for nine runs -- seven earned -- and 10 hits in four innings.

Liriano is 1-5 in 12 home starts and 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in seven career starts against the Cardinals. He is 0-1 in three meetings with St. Louis this season.

08/25 10:31:08 ET

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