Sunday Game Day Preview

Matt Morris takes the mound and goes for his 15th win of the season and the Cardinals 100th win.

GAME: Cincinnati Reds (73-88) at St. Louis Cardinals (99-62).

TIME: Sunday, 2:15 p.m. EDT.

Albert Pujols, Larry Walker and the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals are gearing up for a run at a second straight NL title.

The Central champions will try to complete their second consecutive 100-win campaign as they host the Cincinnati Reds in the final regular season game at Busch Stadium.

Pujols, a strong candidate to take home his first-ever MVP award, was homerless in 61 at-bats before hitting a grand slam in Friday's series-opening 12-6 win. He added a two-run shot Saturday, his 41st of the year, as St. Louis posted a 9-6 win to move within one victory of having back-to-back 100-win seasons for just the second time in franchise history, and first since 1942-44.

"It's not the reason we come out," manager Tony La Russa said. "We need to play one more really good game and get ready for next week."

Walker, limited to 99 games this year due to a herniated disc in his back, will be a valuable bat in St. Louis' lineup during the postseason, especially with third baseman Scott Rolen out for the rest of the year with a shoulder injury.

Walker has 15 homers and 52 RBIs. It was his 31st career multihomer game and his third this season.

The Cardinals, who won 105 games last year, have already locked up home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. With a win Sunday, they will be baseball's only 100-win team. St. Louis can't get home field in the World Series, as the AL won that advantage during this year's All-Star game.

"I think because of the history of this franchise, it would be a nice mark for the two-year run," La Russa said. "But any time you chase a number, you're making a big mistake."

Longtime Cardinals second baseman and manager Red Schoendienst removed the number 2 in the countdown of games remaining at Busch Stadium on Saturday. Ozzie Smith will remove the number 1 during Sunday's finale

Felipe Lopez and Edwin Encarnacion drove in two runs apiece for the Reds, who have lost six of their last seven games.

STANDINGS: Reds - 5th place, 26 GB, NL Central. Cardinals - 1st place, NL Central.

REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Brandon Claussen (10-10, 4.01 ERA). Claussen has won six of his last eight decisions, but suffered his first loss this month in Tuesday's 6-2 defeat at Milwaukee. The left-hander allowed five runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings, striking out five and walking five. He is 1-2 with a 4.76 ERA in five career starts against the Cardinals. On the road this year, Claussen is 5-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 12 starts.

CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Matt Morris (14-10, 3.94 ERA). Morris, who has lost his last five decisions, has pitched effectively his last two times out, allowing two earned runs and six hits over 12 innings. The veteran right-hander, who may start Game 3 of the upcoming NL division series, is 7-4 with a 3.77 ERA in 18 career appearances, including 16 starts, against the Reds. At home this year, Morris is 7-5 with a 4.01 ERA in 15 outings.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Reds - Sean Casey, .312 avg.; Adam Dunn, 39 HRs, 100 RBIs and 106 runs; Ryan Freel, 36 SBs. Cardinals - Pujols, .330 avg., 41 HRs, 117 RBIs, 129 runs and 16 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 10-5.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Reds - Unless LHP Claussen pitches a complete game Sunday, the Reds will tie the team record for fewest complete games with two. Cincinnati also had just two complete games in 2001 and 2002. ... With a win Sunday, the Reds will still finish two games worse (74-88) than they did last year (76-86). ... Left-handed batters are hitting .233 against Claussen this year. Cardinals - RHP Morris set the single-season wins record at Busch in 2001, posting 15 victories. ... RHP Jason Isringhausen has converted 38 of 42 save chances. ... With one game remaining, the Cardinals have drawn a record 3,488,554 fans.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Reds - 31-49 on the road; Cardinals - 49-31 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 - IF Scott Rolen (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Mike Lincoln (elbow), 15-day DL.


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