Despite losing the series finale to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, the Reds stand 4-3 on their current 10-game homestand and on the brink of the final wild card in the National League, fighting with Arizona and surging Miami for the last spot.
Of its 20 remaining games, Cincinnati has only three against a team with a winning record.
"As a team, we don't approach a team any different based on their record," Reds manager David Bell said. "And so from that way of looking at things, it's not going to get easier. But also at some point, you do expect some breaks as far as some of the things we've dealt with over the last two weeks that we can't go back and change."
Bell has managed despite losing four pitchers — including starters Hunter Greene and Brandon Williamson — to the COVID injury list and another — Graham Ashcraft — to a fractured toe. Greene is projected to start Sunday against the Cardinals while Williamson is eligible to return on Sept. 8.
The Reds managed to get through a 17-game stretch with a 9-8 record, despite dealing with a 10-game trip out west, a nine-hour charter plane delay and two doubleheaders.
Second baseman Jonathan India, out since July 30 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, will begin a rehab assignment on Friday with Triple-A Louisville.
"We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot left to accomplish," Bell said. "We've faced a lot over the last week, two weeks. We all thought it was remarkable getting through it the way we did."
The Cardinals have embraced the rare role of spoiler, using a rejuvenated offense to pound one of the best clubs in the majors.
St. Louis beat Atlanta 10-6 on Tuesday night and then tagged NL Cy Young candidate Spencer Strider for six runs and the Cardinals finished with four homers in an 11-6 triumph on Wednesday. The Cardinals dropped Thursday's finale in Atlanta, 8-5.
The Cardinals scored double-digit runs in consecutive games for the first time since September 2019 and Wednesday's game featured the first major league homer from shortstop Masyn Winn.
"It's super cool what our offense is doing," Winn said. "Personally, I've been struggling, and as a whole, we've been struggling. But these last couple of games we've been getting hot. Putting up runs like we have has been great for us."
The Reds will send rookie lefty Andrew Abbott (8-4, 3.22 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. Last Saturday, Abbott kept the Reds in the game against the Cubs, allowing one run and four hits over 6 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking two. The Reds rallied in the ninth for a 2-1 win.
Abbott has faced the Cardinals once in his career, allowing no runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings earlier this season.
The Cardinals will throw rookie left-hander Andrew Rom (0-2, 7.24), looking for his first win in his fourth major league start. Rom will be making a homecoming of sorts, having attended high school at nearby Fort Thomas in Kentucky.
Rom, who will face the Reds for the first time in his career, was charged with three runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings in his last start against Pittsburgh last Saturday in a 7-6 loss.
—Field Level Media