(Photo credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports)
The Cincinnati Reds remain alive in the National League wild-card race heading into a season-ending series against the Cardinals that begins Friday in St. Louis.
However, the Reds (81-78) left themselves little margin for error after taking a 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday in Cleveland. After falling five times in the past seven games, the Reds sit 1 1/2 games behind the Miami Marlins (82-76) in the chase for the third and final NL wild card.
The Marlins had their game against the New York Mets suspended late Thursday night. The Chicago Cubs (82-77) fell a half-game behind Miami by losing 5-3 to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, while the Reds were idle.
Cincinnati manager David Bell said after the Wednesday loss, "There's nothing we can do about it tomorrow. Tonight, we did everything we could. Come Friday, there's not going to be any sort of difference in our approach.
"It will be the exact same team, approaching it the same way and we see what happens this weekend."
The Reds are scheduled to start Brandon Williamson (4-5, 4.54 ERA) in the series opener. The rookie left-hander is 0-1 with a 7.30 ERA in three starts this month, having allowed 10 runs on 17 hits in 12 1/3 innings.
In his latest start, on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Williamson retired 10 of the first 12 batters he faced and eight in a row before he ran into trouble in the fifth inning. He yielded two runs in 4 1/3 innings but the Reds eventually won 4-2.
In Williamson's only start against the Cardinals, he allowed four runs on four hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings on May 22. Then-Cardinal Paul DeJong hit a three-run homer off of him, but the Reds eventually won that game 6-5 in 10 innings.
The injury-depleted Cardinals (69-90) lost seven of their past nine games.
"You have young guys up just trying to survive up here right now," Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.
St. Louis is scheduled to start Jake Woodford (2-2, 5.09 ERA) on Friday. The right-hander was plugged into the rotation in place of Adam Wainwright, who was shut down after earning his 200th career victory.
"I wasn't really sure it was a good look for me to win 200 games and then cash it in," Wainwright said. "I was hyper-aware of trying to be a good example, that this is more about the name on the front than the name on the back. I didn't want to just win 200, shut it down, and go, 'Thanks for everything guys. See you later.'
"I wanted to pitch two more times. I'm getting paid to be a performer, and I wanted to perform. I take a lot of pride in playing it out."
Wainwright, who is one of the better hitting pitchers of his era, hopes to bat one more time before he retires after the season, and the Cardinals are expected to grant that wish.
In his most recent outing, Woodford allowed one run on four hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings during a no-decision against the San Diego Padres on Saturday. He spent much of the year on the injured list due to a shoulder strain, then rebuilt his arm strength in Double-A and Triple-A, going a combined 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA in seven outings from mid-August to mid-September.
He is 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 11 career appearances against the Reds, including one start, though he hasn't faced them this year.
--Field Level Media