Friday - Game Day Preview

Reds at St. Louis for the final series at Busch Stadium.

 
GAME: Cincinnati Reds (73-86) at St. Louis Cardinals (97-62).

TIME: Friday, 8:10 p.m. EDT.

Only three regular season games remain at Busch Stadium, a weekend series with the Cincinnati Reds that the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals will use as a postseason tuneup.

Cardinals president Mark Lamping said Busch, which opened on May 12, 1966, will be demolished within three weeks of the final out of the Cardinals' postseason run.

"Am I going to miss it?" center fielder Jim Edmonds said. "I won't miss the stadium when I play in the new one next year."

The ballpark was the scene of Bob Gibson's 17-strikeout performance against the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series, Lou Brock's record-breaking stolen base in 1974, Ozzie Smith's improbable game-winning homer against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1985 playoffs and Mark McGwire's 62nd and 70th home runs.

"It's an exciting extra, not a distraction," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said of this weekend's planned festivities. "It'll be a thrill to be a part of it. We've had big crowds all summer but people are going to be emotional about it."

With a series sweep, the Cardinals would reach 100 victories in consecutive seasons for only the second time in franchise history, and the first time since 1942-44.

St. Louis has struggled down the stretch with two wins in its last nine games.

Cincinnati has lost four of five, including a 2-0 defeat to Milwaukee on Thursday.

Before the game, the Reds extended manager Jerry Narron's contract through the 2006 season with a mutual option for 2007. Narron began the year as the Reds bench coach and was appointed interim manager when Dave Miley was fired June 21 after the team's 27-43 start.

Cincinnati is 46-44 under Narron.

"Really, the only reason I'm coming back is because the players played well," Narron said. "With where we were in the standings, what our record was, it would have been very easy to just pretty much give up on the team part of it and just play individually.

"One thing they have done is continue to play as a team. This is more of a credit to how they've played than anything I've done."

The Reds are finishing their fifth consecutive losing season, their longest such streak since 1945-55.

STANDINGS: Reds - 5th place, 24 GB, NL Central. Cardinals - 1st place, NL Central.

REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Randy Keisler (2-1, 5.98 ERA). Keisler gave up four runs and eight hits in five innings of a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday. The left-hander has not won a decision since beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-7 on June 7.

CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Mark Mulder (16-8, 3.72 ERA). Mulder is looking to reach 17 wins for the fourth time in five seasons. The southpaw failed in his first bid for win No. 17, getting roughed up for seven runs in 1 2-3 innings of an 8-7 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday. Mulder has a 2.90 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break. He's 4-2 with a 4.33 ERA in six career starts against the Reds.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Reds - Sean Casey, .312 avg.; Adam Dunn, 39 HRs, 99 RBIs and 106 runs; Ryan Freel, 36 SBs. Cardinals - Albert Pujols, .329 avg., 39 HRs, 110 RBIs, 124 runs and 16 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 8-5.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Reds - OF Dunn is one RBI shy of his second 100-RBI season. ... INF Freel needs one stolen base to match his career high of 37 set last season. ... OF Austin Kearns is mired in a 2-for-22 slump. Cardinals - 1B Pujols needs one home run to reach 40 for the third straight season ... SS David Eckstein is batting .361 (44-for-122) with runners in scoring position. ... OF Larry Walker is hitting .350 (14-for-30) over the last 15 games.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Reds - 31-47 on the road; Cardinals - 47-31 at home.

INJURIES: Reds - RHP Ryan Wagner (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Jung Keun Bong (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Paul Wilson (shoulder), 60-day DL; INF Luis Lopez (hamstring), 60-day DL. Cardinals - 3B Scott Rolen (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Mike Lincoln (elbow), 15-day DL.


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