Pitching-rich Cardinals seeking sweep of Reds

The St. Louis Cardinals will try to continue their strong starting pitching trend when they host the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.

In their past five games, starters Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Kwang Hyun Kim and John Gant posted a 1.47 ERA over 30 2/3 innings.

"Jack set the tone and guys have been carrying the mail, getting us into the sixth (inning) or beyond," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "That sets our bullpen the way we want to run it. It keeps (relievers) fresh, keeps them moving, keeps them in the right spots."

The Cardinals won the first two games of this three-game series at Busch Stadium with Kim and Gant combining to allow just one run in 11 2/3 innings.

Flaherty (3-0, 3.80 ERA) will take his turn Sunday for the Cardinals, who have scored 44 runs while winning all four of his starts this season.

After working 21 1/3 innings in those starts, Flaherty wants to work deeper into games and reduce his ERA. He is not content to satisfy the "quality start" metric.

"Quality start is a funny stat," Flaherty said. "I forget what it turns out to, but it's like if you throw a quality start in every single one of your starts, you'd have a 4.50 ERA or so. For certain guys in the league, that's good enough, but we're trying to go deeper into games."

Flaherty didn't get a decision in an 11-6 victory in Cincinnati on April 1 after allowing the Reds to score six runs on six hits (including two homers) in 4 1/3 innings.

He is 2-2 with a 3.65 ERA in eight career starts against the Reds. But Joey Votto (.462, three walks, two RBIs), Eugenio Suarez (.333, three homers, four RBIs), Nicholas Castellanos (.400, double, one homer, two RBIs) and Jesse Winker (.333, three doubles, one homer) all have done damage against him.

The Reds will hope to get that offense cranking so they can snap their six-game losing streak.

"I wish there was an easy way," Reds manager David Bell said after Saturday's loss. "There never is. There a lot of positives to think about ... there's a long, long way to go. That's a fact. That's a good thing."

Reds starter Luis Castillo (1-1, 6.05 ERA) also will be seeking a more efficient outing Sunday. He has worked beyond five innings just once in his four starts, and he needed 89 pitches to get 12 outs against the Arizona Diamondbacks in his most recent effort.

Castillo also faced Flaherty in that 11-6 loss on Opening Day. He allowed 10 runs (eight earned) on eight hits and two walks.

He is 4-5 with a 4.70 ERA in 12 career starts against the Cardinals. Nolan Arenado (.571, two walks, RBI) and Tommy Edman (.385, double) have enjoyed notable success against Castillo while Tyler O'Neill (0-for-14) has not.

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina remains questionable with a foot injury. He exited Friday's game and sat out the game Saturday.

"Talked to him earlier, of course he may be the toughest man alive," Shildt said Saturday. "He said, 'I can play, I'm not too worried about it.' But it's all relative."

--Field Level Media