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Cardinals Could Tie Reds In Game Two Of NL Central Series

(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Cardinals were able to cut their division deficit in half on Monday thanks to Chris Carpenter's continued domination of the Cincinnati Reds. They'll find the shoe on the other foot this evening.

St. Louis will try to move into a virtual tie with Cincinnati atop the National League Central standings, but first they'll have to deal with Johnny Cueto, who hasn't lost in nearly two months.

Cueto takes the hill for the second contest of this three-game series at Great American Ball Park having gone 5-0 with a 1.55 earned run average over his last eight starts. The 24-year-old hasn't lost since June 18 and is coming off Wednesday's victory over Pittsburgh, when he threw six innings of one-run ball and scattered three hits and two walks while striking out six.

Cueto matched his career high in wins for a season, set last year, and improved to 11-2 with a 3.24 ERA. The right-hander is also undefeated over his last eight starts at home since his lone loss there on April 24, and 5-1 with a 3.90 ERA in 10 starts at Great American Ball Park this year.

The Dominican Republic native is 1-0 with three starts versus the Cardinals this year, but was tagged for eight runs over five innings in a no-decision the last time he faced them, back on June 1 in St. Louis. In eight career starts versus the Cards, he is 3-2 with a 6.39 ERA.

Cueto will try to dominate the Cardinals like Carpenter did his team last night. The former Cy Young Award winner held Cincinnati to a pair of runs on five hits and three walks over seven innings of a 7-3 victory to win his ninth straight start versus the Reds dating back to August of 2006.

Carpenter was also backed by a seven-run fourth inning that featured a grand slam by Skip Schumaker, the first of his career, and RBI hits from Albert PujolsMatt Holliday and Colby Rasmus. The victory, St. Louis' third in four games, pulled the club within a game of first-place Cincinnati, which had won four straight and seven of eight.

"Those guys over there obviously are in the situation they're in for a good reason. That's because they can hit, one, and they've got some guys over there that can pitch too," said Carpenter of the Reds. "It's definitely a challenge, but every challenge is a good challenge when you're going against a group of guys that you know are going to compete."

Reds rookie pitcher Mike Leake was charged with seven runs -- six earned -- and nine hits over 3 2/3 innings, while Ramon Hernandez had three hits, including an RBI double and ninth-inning homer.

Jim Edmonds went 0-for-4 in his Reds debut after being acquired from the Brewers earlier on Monday. The 40-year-old played with the Cardinals from 2000-07.

His former teammate, Pujols, is hitting .475 (19-for-40) with five homers and 12 RBI over a nine-game hitting streak and is 3-for-14 lifetime versus Cueto.

Jaime Garcia hopes that Pujols can find some success versus his opposition tonight and takes the mound for St. Louis for the first time since picking up his first loss since June 27 Tuesday versus Houston. It was a bad one, as the 24-year-old gave up eight runs -- four earned -- on 10 hits over five innings.

"It was a rough one, definitely a bad outing," said Garcia, who allowed five runs in the second inning. "It was a tough second inning. After that inning, I tried to do the best I could to stay in the game and go as deep as I could."

The left-handed Garcia fell to 9-5 with a 2.53 ERA this year and has won both of his starts versus the Reds in 2010, allowing four runs over 12 1/3 innings.

The Cardinals have won eight of 13 over the Reds this year, taking four of seven so far in Cincinnati. These two clubs wrap up their season series from Sept. 3-5.