(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Cardinals have a good shot at staying on track with Shelby Miller slated to take the mound in Friday's opener of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cardinals just posted a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks and have won eight of their last 10 games to pull within 1 1/2 games of Milwaukee for the NL Central's top spot.
St. Louis has won each of Miller's previous five starts and he lasted a season-high seven innings in Saturday's 4-1 victory over Atlanta. Miller permitted one unearned run and five hits, struck out seven batters and walked two. He is now 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA in nine outings.
Miller, a right-hander, is 3-1 in five road starts this season and lost to Cincinnati on April 9 in a 4-0 defeat, as he gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings.
In four career starts against the Reds, Miller is 1-1 with a 3.57 earned run average.
The Cardinals went 7-2 on their recent homestand and completed the sweep of the Diamondbacks with Thursday's 4-2 win thanks to late-game hits from Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter. Craig scored Matt Holliday with the go-ahead run in the seventh and Carpenter posted an insurance run with an RBI single in the eighth.
Shane Robinson finished 3-for-4 with two RBI and both Craig and Jhonny Peralta added two hits for the Cardinals. Lance Lynn threw six innings of two-run ball in the no-decision and Pat Neshek tossed the next two innings for the win. Trevor Rosenthal posted his 14th save with a scoreless ninth.
"You don't ever expect to be right around .500 with this club we have," said Lynn. "For us to come in at home on our first true homestand of the year and go like this, it's good for us."
Cincinnati just went 3-3 on a recent road trip to Philadelphia and Washington, and won two of three against the Nationals.
The Reds won the rubber match by a 2-1 score on Wednesday and used a two-run fourth inning to stay ahead for good. Brandon Phillips and Brayan Pena both stroked run-scoring singles in the frame, while Zack Cozart posted three hits and Alfredo Simon pitched seven strong innings for his sixth win (6-2).
Simon held the Nationals to a run on Denard Span's home run in the first inning, struck out six batters and walked one.
"Anytime you lead off the game with a home run, you usually think it's probably going to be a good day for the offense," said Span. "But you've got to give credit to Simon. He shut the door down, made good pitches."
Jonathan Broxton threw a scoreless eighth inning and hard-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman pinned down his third save in the ninth.
Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, who underwent knee surgery on May 5, was activated from the disabled list but did not play. Bruce could return Friday and took the place of Joey Votto, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a distal quadriceps strain.
Bruce is one home run shy of 100 at Great American Ball Park.
Homer Bailey will make his 10th start of the season for the Reds Friday and is coming off Saturday's 12-1 loss at Philadelphia in which he was reached for six runs and seven hits in a season-low 3 2/3 innings. Bailey, a right-hander, has been reached for 18 runs in his last five appearances.
Bailey was 3-1 in his last four decisions and will face the Cardinals for the third time this season (0-1). In 19 career starts against them, Bailey is 5-10 with a 5.01 earned run average.
St. Louis has won four of six meetings with the NL Central-rival Cincinnati this season after going 11-8 in the 2013 series.