Once considered the frontrunners in the National League Central, the Cardinals and Reds are now looking up at the Pirates, and both teams enter this weekend's series in Cincinnati looking to rebound.
The Cardinals ceded the division lead to the Pirates during their five-game series but got a much-needed 13-0 win in Thursday's finale. The Reds narrowly avoided a season-long six-game skid with a win over the Padres in their finale.
"We don't undervalue any team or look over anybody. We know anybody can be in the middle of this thing if they click. As far as Pittsburgh goes, it's no surprise to us. I think more people are surprised than we are. We know they're a good team, that they've been a good team," Cards manager Mike Matheny said. "Cincinnati won the division last year, so there are no surprises there. We don't do a whole lot of forecasting. We don't do a lot of predicting to figure out how it's all going to play out. We take care of ourselves and worry how we play."
Cincinnati will hand the ball to right-hander Bronson Arroyo on Friday, hoping to take advantage of St. Louis' recent slide and gain some ground in the NL Central.
Arroyo held the Giants to seven hits with no walks in a shutout on July 22, his first start of the second half, but he couldn't deliver repeat results his last time out, when he was tagged with a 4-1 loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
"It was a battle just from warming up in the bullpen, to be honest with you," Arroyo said after the loss. "I didn't have much of a breaking ball, which I haven't had a few times the last month and a half. I had a decent fastball, but it was off just a tick in command. I was behind in a lot of counts."
Arroyo surrendered three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out just one in 5 1/3 innings against the Dodgers, and will look to bounce back on Friday at home. He is 8-15 with a 4.49 ERA in 36 career games (34 starts) against the Cardinals.
The Cardinals will counter with rookie Shelby Miller, who allowed just two earned runs over his last two starts since taking 12 days off across both sides of the All-Star break.
Miller allowed the Braves to push two runners across on six hits and two walks while the Cardinals' offense sputtered in a 5-2 loss his last time out.
"He did a nice job of really competing," Matheny said after the game. "He got into trouble and worked himself out. All in all, he threw the ball well. I saw some real nice secondary pitches, and you could tell that makes his fastball better."
Reds: Choo rests before possible return in opener
Center fielder Shin-Soo Choo was out of the lineup again on Wednesday as he recovers from an ankle sprain, an injury sustained while stealing second base on Sunday.
Choo started on Tuesday but still wasn't 100 percent, and his status is unknown for Friday's series opener.
"It's a lot better," Choo said. "Being off [on Wednesday and Thursday] with a team off-day, I'm positive that I will feel much, much better. [On Tuesday] I felt totally different. I don't want to make it worse. I can sprint with no problem and change direction. Hitting, I felt a pinch in my ankle. I'm a little sore, and my timing is different. It's not normal."
Cardinals: Limiting the long ball
The 68 home runs allowed by St. Louis pitchers are their fewest in the first 107 games since 1990 (58).
The Cardinals themselves have hit just 83 homers in the first 107 games, the team's fewest since 1995 (75).
• On Thursday, one day after announcing that MRIs found no structural damage in Yadier Molina's right knee and Shane Robinson's right shoulder, the Cardinals did not have additional updates on either player. The two have been prescribed rest until further evaluation and aren't expected to rejoin the Cardinals during their current road trip.
• No target date has been set for Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto to begin a throwing program. Cueto is on the disabled list for a third time this season as he recovers from a strained right lat.
• In one career start against the Reds last season, Miller allowed just one hit in six innings for a no-decision.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.