Justin Masterson hopes he has finally found the successful form he's been missing most of this season.
The right-hander has certainly been at his best against the Cincinnati Reds of late.Looking to build on his strongest outing since joining the St. Louis Cardinals, Masterson tries to win his fourth straight start against the reeling Reds on Monday night at Busch Stadium.After allowing five runs, seven hits and three walks in each of his first two starts with St. Louis (66-57) in eight innings combined, Masterson (2-1, 6.00 ERA) scattered three hits over seven scoreless innings of a 5-2 victory at Miami on Wednesday."I pray to the good Lord that this is on the right path," said Masterson, who went 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts for Cleveland before being traded July 30.St. Louis manager Mike Matheny felt it was a matter of time before the veteran pitched like the guy who won a career-high 14 games and posted a 3.45 ERA for the Indians last season."(Wednesday) was just a great sign of the kind of pitcher he can be when he gets it all put together," Matheny said. "It couldn't have happened at a better time."Masterson allowed nine runs and seven walks in 11 2/3 innings of his first two starts versus Cincinnati (61-63), but has yielded two earned runs while striking out 21 and walking five in 23 innings to win his last three.Winners in four of five, the Cardinals are 6-3 against the Reds this season. They've also won six straight and 12 of the last 13 home series between the NL Central rivals.St. Louis' John Jay is 3 for 23 in his last nine home games versus Cincinnati, but with two hits and two RBIs in Sunday's 7-6 win over San Diego, he is 12 for 24 with eight runs scored and nine RBIs in the last nine overall.Teammate Matt Carpenter is batting .400 with a homer and five RBIs in five games, and .375 in the last six against the Reds.Carpenter and Jay, however, are a combined 9 for 40 against Mike Leake (9-11, 3.59), who has allowed two runs over 14 innings to split his two starts against the Cardinals this season. He gave up four hits over eight innings of a 4-0 victory at Busch on April 9.The right-hander yielded three runs over 20 2/3 innings to win two of three prior to giving up five in five innings of a 5-4 loss to Boston on Wednesday.A loser in seven of nine, Cincinnati must find a way to regroup after being swept in a doubleheader at Colorado on Sunday.Closer Aroldis Chapman walked all four batters he faced in the ninth as the Reds blew a four-run lead in losing 10-9 in Game 1. They led 5-2 in the nightcap before Colorado scored eight runs over the seventh and eighth innings for a 10-5 victory."The first one got away from us and the second one got away from us," manager Bryan Price said.Billy Hamilton went 8 for 18 with three doubles in the four games at Colorado and is 5 for 14 at St. Louis this season.Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips hasn't played since July 9 because of a thumb injury, but could return for this series. He's 1 for his last 6 against Masterson.