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7/15/12: Bailey, Rolen help finish sweep of Cardinals

With 38 games left on their schedule -- including six against Cincinnati -- the Cardinals believe they can still catch the Reds, who currently own a seven-game lead over St. Louis in the National League Central.

The first of those six games will be played Friday, when the Cardinals and Reds open a three-game weekend series at Great American Ball Park. A couple of right-handers will toe the rubber in the series opener, as Lance Lynn will pitch for the Redbirds against the home team's Mat Latos.

"I can't wait to play them," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "That's so contradictory to everything I've said ... but you look at this trip coming up and how that series went [immediately after the All-Star break] and how close that series was, it certainly could have gone three games the other [way] for us.

"We haven't had a lot of conversations about it, because we're all about staying in the here and now, but that's going to be a fun series."

In their previous tussle with Cincinnati, the Cardinals were swept on the road (July 13-15). Two of the three losses came by a margin of two runs, while the other was a one-run defeat in 10 innings. Overall, the Reds have the edge in the season series, 5-4.

The visit to Cincinnati marks the beginning of a crucial road trip for St. Louis, which will head to Pittsburgh for three games and Washington for four games following its layover in the Queen City. While Matheny is aware of the trip's significance, he wouldn't go as far as to call it "defining."

"The closer you get to the Reds, the better ball you're playing," said Cardinals third baseman David Freese, whose club is coming off a sweep of Houston. "I don't think those guys are really going to slow down too much. There's other ways to get into the playoffs, but the division is still something we're striving for and we're going to try to win as many games as we can."

Cardinals: Lynn looking for first August win
An All-Star this season, Lynn brings a 13-5 record with a 3.73 ERA into Friday's showdown with the Reds. August has been difficult for the righty, who is 0-1 with a 5.48 record in four starts this month. Lynn made it through just 4 1/3 innings against the Pirates in his most recent outing, his shortest of the year. He gave up three runs in the no-decision.

"When you're out there, sometimes the emotions overtake you, and you can't let that happen," Lynn said. "I was able not to give up the big inning. But some of the emotions, I'm just trying to do all I can to help us beat the team that is ahead of us. I was fighting all day, and I need to make sure I don't let [the emotions] be seen as much."

Reds: Latos hoping to beat Cards this time
After posting wins in three straight starts, Latos has picked up three consecutive no-decisions. That hasn't been the fault of the right-hander, whose ERA over his past six outings is 1.49. On the season, Latos is 10-3 with a 3.56 ERA. In his most recent appearance, the pitcher allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits over eight innings.

"I was spotty here and there," Latos said. "I didn't have control of the fastball. I didn't have very good command of the slider or the curveball. I got by with what I had today. I think a lot of it had to do with [catcher Ryan] Hanigan behind the dish with what he was calling at the right times. I didn't have my best stuff but he was good behind the dish. He knew what was going on."

In two starts against St. Louis this season, Latos is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA. Back in April, the Cardinals tagged him for eight runs in 5 2/3 innings, but Latos limited them to two runs in five innings last month.

• Reds manager Dusty Baker rested Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips in Thursday's series finale against Philadelphia. Phillips appeared in the bottom of the 11th inning, though, replacing Wilson Valdez at second base. Both Rolen and Phillips are expected to start all three games against St. Louis.

Worth noting
• Cincinnati has outscored the Cardinals, 36-26, in nine games this season. The Reds took the season series last year, 9-6.

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