MLB Insiders - The Race is On

Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter will match up with Reds right-hander Aaron Harang for the third time this season when their teams begin a three-game showdown Tuesday in St. Louis.

It will be the last series between the teams this season, with the Cardinals carrying a 1 1/2-game lead over the Reds in the National League Central race.

The Cardinals are only 2 1/2 games clear of San Diego in a potential wild-card race. Carpenter and Harang pitched to a no-decision last Wednesday in Cincinnati, but Harang beat Carpenter 1-0 earlier this year and also 1-0 in 2004.

Cincinnati already has won the season series, capturing eight of the teams' first 12 meetings. Carpenter admitted he didn't know exactly how to feel about being in a tight race.

"I don't know what's to be said about it because I've never done it," he said.

When he was with Toronto, the Blue Jays were never close, and the two seasons before this that he had pitched for the Cardinals, they won 105 and 100 games and pretty much had won the division by the All-Star break.


--The three homers RHP Chris Carpenter allowed in a no-decision at Cincinnati last week gave him 18 for the season, matching his total for the whole 2005 season.

--Manager Tony La Russa said the club probably would go away from the 13 pitchers it has now. The Cardinals, who were off Monday, will be off the next two Mondays, and with INF/OF Scott Spiezio a bit gimpy with a sore Achilles tendon, the Cardinals could use another position player. OF John Rodriguez, optioned to Triple-A Memphis last week, hasn't been there the requisite 10 days, so OF Skip Schumaker, who started the season with the Cardinals and is hitting better than .300, might be a candidate for recall.

--1B Albert Pujols, creeping up on the National League batting leaders, has a five-game hitting streak working at 8-for-19.

--SS David Eckstein, who had dipped into the .280s, has a six-game hitting streak (8-for-25) that has improved his average to .291.

--The Cardinals still are undecided whether to pitch RHP Jeff Suppan or RHP Jeff Weaver against the Reds in Thursday's series finale.

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