The Cardinals continue their tour of National League contenders Monday with a sixth and final head-to-head series against the Reds.
A win over the Pirates on Sunday elevated the Cardinals into a tie for first place with the Pirates in the NL Central, while the Reds linger 3 1/2 games back.
St. Louis has won all five series with Cincinnati by a 2-to-1 margin, and this four-game set presents an opportunity to further bury the Reds in the standings.
"Every game from here on out is huge, especially games against the Cardinals," Reds outfielder Chris Heisey said. "… We just have to show up and play the ball we can. We got them at home this time. I think we're a little more comfortable playing at our home ballpark, and hopefully we can play well against them."
The four-game series carries significant playoff implications, though Reds manager Dusty Baker won't be labeling the series critical any time soon.
"It's getting late for everybody. It's getting late for those we're chasing, it's getting late for those that are trying to catch us," Baker said. "When you say it's critical, that doesn't make you play any better. 'Critical' doesn't make you get any more hits or make any more pitches. You just got to go out and play.
"'Critical,' that's a negative word with negative connotations. It seems like there's a lot of negatives bombarding us. We need positives."
Although the Cardinals took two straight to secure a series win last week, the Reds rebounded with a 10-0 victory Wednesday, knocking around St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright in the worst start of his career.
Cincinnati ambushed Wainwright from the get-go, chasing him after two innings with a career-high nine earned runs. The two innings marked the shortest start of Wainwright's career. Luckily for the right-hander, though, he'll have an opportunity to redeem himself just five days later, this time in Cincinnati.
"The hardest part is the four days in between starts, to sit here and mull over what just happened," Wainwright said. "The best thing I can do with [that] start is to throw it away and just realize that I'm a very good pitcher and that I'll be ready for next time."
Righty Mat Latos, who gave up four runs on nine hits over six innings in a 6-1 loss to the Cards on Tuesday, will get the nod for the Reds.
Cardinals: Chambers lone St. Louis callup Sunday
The Cards called up just one player, outfielder Adron Chambers, as rosters expanded from 25 to 40 on Sunday. The club is expected to recall additional pitching help and a few more position players as Minor League regular seasons come to a close this week.
Chambers adds speed and outfield depth to the St. Louis bench. He made 11 appearances with the Cardinals last month, going 1-for-12 and scoring two runs as a pinch-runner.
"Obviously he's a weapon off the bench to come in and run or take a pinch-hit at-bat if we need him to," manager Mike Matheny said. "He just brings a lot of energy. He's good to have around here."
Reds: Light role expected for Hamilton, other September callups
Expected to be among the callups, Billy Hamilton's much anticipated debut is looming. However, Baker said Hamilton -- ranked No. 1 among Reds prospects by MLB.com -- and the rest of the callups won't be immediate everyday players.
"Hamilton's here to help us win," Baker said. "However we think he can most help the team. I was a September callup three times. I didn't play much."
The 22-year-old outfielder set a professional record with 155 steals in 192 attempts over 132 games in Class A and Double-A last season. Hamilton is batting .256 with Triple-A Louisville this year, leading the league in steals with 75 in 90 attempts.
• Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran sat out Sunday's finale in Pittsburgh with lower back tightness. His status is unclear for Monday, although Matheny said that Beltran was likely available to pinch-hit Sunday.
• St. Louis catcher Tony Cruz was activated from the 15-day disabled list Sunday so he can serve as an emergency option behind the plate. Cruz (left forearm fracture) hasn't been cleared to swing a bat, but said he hopes to get the go-ahead Wednesday or Thursday.
• The Reds recalled outfielder Derrick Robinson, reliever Curtis Partch and second baseman Henry Rodriguez on Sunday. All three are making their second stint in the Majors this season.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.