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CIN@STL: Lackey strikes out seven over six innings

The Pirates made up ground in Milwaukee over the weekend against the first-place team in the National League Central. Now they get a chance to do the same against the first-place team in the NL Wild Card.

The Cardinals visit PNC Park starting Monday for a three-game set with multiple playoff implications.

Despite losing Sunday, the Bucs took two of three from the Brewers and have won three of four after a seven-game losing streak. The Pirates helped their divisional hopes, closing the gap between them and the Brewers to five games, but they are closer in the Wild Card -- entering Monday 1 1/2 games behind San Francisco for second place and 3 1/2 back of the visiting Cardinals.

St. Louis is traveling across the Keystone State after a disappointing weekend in which they bookended a three-game series against the Phillies with losses. The Redbirds are 1 1/2 back of Milwaukee and are two games up on the Giants for the top Wild Card spot.

Two veterans will get the ball in the series opener as John Lackey and Francisco Liriano square off.

It will be the fifth start in a Cardinals uniform for Lackey, who was acquired at the Trade Deadline. St. Louis is 3-1 so far when Lackey starts, and the team got a win when he gave up four runs (two earned) in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Liriano is looking to snap a string of three straight losses. The lefty has not won since July 29, but had not allowed more than two runs in a start in the second half of the season until his latest outing.

Liriano was hit hard by the Braves on Tuesday, surrendering 10 hits and nine runs -- seven of which were earned.

"I was missing my spot a lot, and it was one of those nights where everything I was throwing was going to get hit," Liriano said. "They've been pretty hot the last couple games -- last night, too. It was just one of those nights."

Pirates: Bucs claim lefty LaFromboise off waivers
The Pirates claimed left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise off waivers from San Diego on Sunday. The 28-year-old was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

LaFromboise spent all of 2014 with the Padres' Triple-A affiliate in El Paso, where he was 1-2 with a 4.75 ERA, 1.679 WHIP, three saves and 45 strikeouts in 58 appearances (53 innings). LaFromboise debuted in the Majors with Seattle last season.

With the Mariners, he pitched in 10 games allowing seven earned runs and 12 hits over 10 2/3 innings, making three of his appearances in April, one in July and six more in September. LaFromboise was placed on the Pirates' 40-man roster, and infielder Tommy Field was designated for assignment to make room for the move.

Cardinals: Jay on a tear
With a 1-for-3 showing on Sunday against Philadelphia, Jon Jay has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games.

The center fielder has gone 20-for-45 (.444) during the stretch, with the lone hitless game coming Friday against the Phillies. Five times in his last 15 contests, Jay has had multi-hit games, and he has raised his average from .287 to .310 in the process.

Jay has hits in 16 of his 19 games during August, and his .404 average this month is tops among National League hitters.

Worth noting
• Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco returned to the lineup Sunday after being held out for four days. The rookie's slump continued, however, as he went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Polanco is now in a 1-for-30 skid.

• The Cardinals and Pirates will play the final six games of their season series within the next week. St. Louis has won seven of the first 13 in the divisional rivalry. Comments