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Reds-Cardinals Preview

Lance Lynn seems to be the ideal person to have on the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals with an opportunity to secure a fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

The problem is that they haven't been able to score much during his recent starts.

St. Louis looks to provide Lynn with some support as it seeks an eighth victory in nine games Sunday night against the visiting Cincinnati Reds.

The Cardinals (87-68) dropped their magic number to one for a postseason spot and five for its second straight NL Central title with Saturday's 8-4 win over the slumping Reds.

Tony Cruz hit a three-run homer, Kolten Wong had a two-run blast and Randal Grichuk added a solo shot for St. Louis, which has won four straight. It holds a 3 1/2-game lead on second-place Pittsburgh after the Pirates fell 1-0 to Milwaukee.

''I like the home runs,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ''You guys always accuse me of not liking them, but especially those three-runners that Tony did. We know we have the kind of team that can do that and it's nice to see them.''

That type of offensive output surely would help Lynn (15-9, 2.68 ERA), who has continued to pitch well lately - especially against the Reds. He's 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA over his last six starts, a stretch that began with seven scoreless innings in a 7-3 win over Cincinnati on Aug. 20.

Lynn's loss in that stretch came in another solid performance against the Reds as he allowed one run in eight innings of a 1-0 defeat Sept. 11. The right-hander was sharp again Tuesday while giving up one run in seven innings of the Cardinals' 3-2, 12-inning loss to Milwaukee.

"I thought he was very consistent with what we've seen the last few starts," Matheny said. "It was exactly what we needed. We just needed to give him some more (runs)."

Lynn is 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA in four starts against the Reds this season, and he'll look to help the Cardinals complete a three-game sweep while dealing Cincinnati a season high-tying seventh straight defeat.

The Reds (71-84) have been outscored 30-8 during their skid and had scored twice in their previous four games. Zack Cozart went 2 for 4 with a solo homer while Brandon Phillips also had two hits and an RBI.

''You're seeing us having to go out there and really struggle so mightily to try to find a way to win a ball game,'' manager Bryan Price said. ''Certainly nobody's enjoying this current portion of our schedule. The way we've played for the last 60 games has been miserable.''

Cincinnati will counter Lynn with Alfredo Simon, who is wrapping up an overall successful season - the first of his seven-year career as a full-time starter.

Simon (14-10, 3.35) allowed two runs in seven innings of a 4-2 win over the Cardinals on Sept. 10 before pitching seven scoreless innings in the Reds' 1-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Monday.

''This is my first season with the Reds to be a starter and I want to show them I can be a starter for a real long time here,'' Simon said. ''I try to finish strong.''

The right-hander's only other career start against St. Louis was Aug. 19, when he gave up three runs in 5 1-3 innings of Cincinnati's 5-4 defeat. He's faced the Cardinals 14 other times in relief.

St. Louis is 7-1 against the Reds at home this season and has won 17 of 23 meetings there.

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