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Preview: Cardinals at Pirates

GAME: St. Louis Cardinals (99-58) at Pittsburgh Pirates (95-62)
DATE/TIME: Wednesday, September 30 – 1:35 PM EST
WHERE: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
LINE: N/A TOTAL: N/A

The St. Louis Cardinals can clinch their third consecutive National League Central title with a victory over the rival Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in either game of the doubleheader on Wednesday. Matt Carpenter, who scored the eventual game-winning run in Monday’s 3-0 triumph, is 19-for-52 (.365) with six homers, 11 runs scored and 10 RBIs in his last 13 games.

Carpenter scored on a single in the ninth inning by Jon Jay, who entered the game after rookie Stephen Piscotty (head contusion) was involved in a horrific outfield collision. While the Cardinals reside one victory shy of 100, the Pirates sit four games out of the division after Tuesday’s tilt was rained out. Pittsburgh, which has lost nine of the 17 meetings with St. Louis this season, has dropped two in a row following an eight-game winning streak. Andrew McCutchen has struggled mightily to the tune of 4-for-25 (.160) in his last eight contests, but is 7-for-15 (.467) in his career versus Tuesday’s Game 1 starter Michael Wacha.

TV: 1:35 p.m. ET, FSN Midwest (St. Louis), ROOT (Pittsburgh)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals RH Michael Wacha (17-6, 3.15 ERA) vs. Pirates RH Gerrit Cole (18-8, 2.60)

After a sizzling summer, Wacha has cooled down considerably by alternating wins and losses over his last four starts. The 19th overall pick of the 2012 draft, Wacha has allowed 15 earned runs in his last 20 frames and issued 14 walks in that span. Wacha, however, has handcuffed Pittsburgh in his career, permitting four earned runs in 18 2/3 innings versus the Pirates this season and just seven in 32 2/3 frames en route to a 3-0 career mark.

Cole recorded his third straight win after yielding one run on four hits in seven innings of a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday. The 25-year-old dazzled in his last meeting with St. Louis, scattering two hits over seven scoreless frames in a 7-1 rout on Sept. 6. Cole won that tilt at Busch Stadium and is undefeated in three home starts versus the Cardinals.

WALK-OFFS

1. St. Louis C Yadier Molina will miss the remainder of the regular season after he partially tore ligaments in his left thumb on Sept. 20.

2. Pittsburgh SS Jordy Mercer is 0-for-7 in his last two games after collecting 10 hits in his previous six contests.

3. Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright (leg) was activated on Tuesday and could appear out of the bullpen for the first time since 2006.

PREDICTION: Pirates 4, Cardinals 1