MLB Insiders - St. Louis Cardinals

The Pirates open a two-game series with the Cardinals in St. Louis on Tuesday night. Right-hander Ian Snell will oppose Cards right-hander Braden Looper.

In his second season as a starting pitcher, Braden Looper is becoming one of the St. Louis Cardinals' most reliable hurlers.

He'll try to match his career high in wins Tuesday night when the Cardinals face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a two-game set.

Looper, second on the team in wins and innings (148 1-3), beat Florida on Wednesday as he yielded two runs - one earned - and five hits with five strikeouts in a 6-4 win.

Looper, who has walked just four batters in his last 28 innings, is 3-1 with a 4.37 ERA in four starts against the Pirates (56-69).

Ian Snell (4-10, 5.91 ERA), goes to the mound for Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Though he's shut down Cards slugger Ryan Ludwick, Snell is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in four starts against St. Louis this season.

The right-hander's last three outings have all resulted in losses for the Pirates, but he's received only four total runs of support. He has provided quality starts in his last two games, only to suffer losses to Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

Snell was shaky at times Thursday, allowing five walks and six hits in six innings, but he held the Reds to two runs in the 3-1 loss.

Righties Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, both on the disabled list, will be involved in throwing sessions at Busch Stadium before Tuesday's game with Pittsburgh.

Carpenter, sidelined since Aug. 10 by a muscle strain in his right shoulder after missing more than a year with an elbow problem that required ligament surgery, will throw off flat ground. Wainwright, rebounding from a sprained middle finger on his right hand, will throw a bullpen session.

But even if both are about ready to return to the roster -- Carpenter seems a bit farther away -- pitching coach Dave Duncan suggested that both wouldn't return to the rotation.

"It's unlikely," said Duncan. "I'm not saying it couldn't happen. But it's unlikely."

One scenario would have Wainwright taking Carpenter's spot in the rotation. Carpenter made three starts for the Cardinals before getting hurt. Another would have Wainwright, for the balance of this season, returning to the back end of the bullpen, where he had so much success in 2006.

"The big thing," said Duncan, "is getting a feel for where Carpenter's at because if it doesn't look like Carpenter is going to be ready, than you have to think about Wainwright as a starter."

Wainwright last started on Saturday for Class AA Springfield and tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

One or the other -- Wainwright or Carpenter -- would seem to be in line to pitch one of the games against Milwaukee in St. Louis on Aug. 26 or Aug. 27.

--Of the Cardinals' remaining 35 games, 21 will be at home. Twenty-one of the games will be against teams with winning records: Milwaukee (two), Houston (three), Florida (three), Chicago (six) and Arizona (seven).

--2B Adam Kennedy, who was on the Anaheim world champion team that came from wild-card status in 2002, said he'd be fine with the Cards reaching the postseason as the wild card. Given the fact they are 7 1/2 games behind division-leading Chicago, the Cardinals are more likely to be a wild-card team. "I love the wild card," Kennedy said. "Having the wild card keeps you alive. You don't get discouraged because you're still in a race."

--The Cardinals haven't had more than a five-game winning streak since they won six straight in July 2006, their world championship season.

--The Cardinals may go to a four-man rotation during a home stand that starts Tuesday night. They have two off days scheduled during the stand besides the one before the home stand starts and one afterward.

--The club is best at night and in games started by right-handed pitchers. Thirteen games over .500 overall at 70-57, the Cardinals are 10 over at night (48-38) and 12 over in games started by right-handers (50-38).

--RHP Chris Carpenter, who is on the disabled list, will be involved in a throwing session at Busch Stadium before Tuesday's game with Pittsburgh. Carpenter, sidelined since Aug. 10 by a muscle strain in his right shoulder after missing more than a year with an elbow problem that required ligament surgery, will throw off flat ground. Carpenter could be in line to start against Milwaukee on Aug. 26 or Aug. 27.

--RHP Adam Wainwright, who is on the disabled list, will be involved in a throwing session at Busch Stadium before Tuesday's game with Pittsburgh. Wainwright, rebounding from a sprained middle finger on his right hand, will throw a bullpen session. Wainwright could be in line to start against Milwaukee on Aug. 26 or Aug. 27.

BY THE NUMBERS: 17 -- Number of Cardinals, including current outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who have hit 30 or more homers in a season for the Cardinals.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We want to get him right. You don't want to rush something and have him have a problem again." -- Pitching coach Dave Duncan, on the Cardinals' decision to put RHP Chris Carpenter back on the disabled list, this time with a shoulder strain.


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