It's time for a rematch.
The Pirates took four of five from the Cardinals in a late-July series that altered the landscape of the National League Central. Now, Pittsburgh heads to the Gateway City to play three games at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals try to cut into the Bucs' three-game division lead.
"We know we can play with them," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "Actually, we know we can beat them. They know they can beat us. It's been a very spirited series since I've been here the last three years."
Pittsburgh outscored St. Louis, 22-7, in the first four games of the series before the Cardinals took the fifth tilt, 13-0.
"Their starting pitching really kept them in the game," said Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso, "and they have a good bullpen, and they seem to come up with timely hits, which is what we were doing a lot the first four months. When you do that, you give yourself a chance to win."
The Cardinals gave an extra three days of rest to ace Adam Wainwright, who has already logged 175 2/3 innings this season. The right-hander (13-7, 2.66 ERA) will take the hill for Tuesday's series opener.
"I'm always excited to take the ball," Wainwright said. "That's why we work hard in between starts. That's what we pride ourselves in is going out there and being the stopper, being the guy that the team can look on and count on you and depend on you."
The Cardinals have lost each of Wainwright's last three starts despite the 31-year-old tossing seven innings in each outing.
"I think my last couple starts, [it] has been a matter of two or three pitches to make the difference between a win and a loss for the team," Wainwright said. "Sometimes when you're pitching against really good pitchers, like I do pretty much every time out there, you've got to be on your game or you're going to lose."
His next time out, Wainwright will be matched up with Charlie Morton (4-3, 3.88 ERA). Morton surrendered five runs on 10 hits over six innings in the Cardinals' triumph in the finale of the five-game set. He'll have a chance at redemption on Tuesday.
"We're going to go in there, it's going to be packed, it's going to be exciting," Hurdle said. "They've held Wainwright back, that way we'll get Wainwright, [Shelby] Miller and [Lance] Lynn. So this is kind of the time of the season that you want to be involved in and you want to be engaged in."
Pirates: Hurdle's bunch a confident one
Morton said he can "sense the confidence" in the Pirates' clubhouse.
"There's an equilibrium, there's a consistency, and I think that allows the team to play really well on a consistent basis," Morton said. "The team has, and always has had, the talent to go out and beat a team on any given night, but the most difficult thing -- and it's true for everything in the big leagues on an individual basis and a team basis -- is consistency."
The franchise has not enjoyed a winning season since 1992, which is also the team's most recent playoff appearance.
Cardinals: Club getting teams' best shots
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny feels his club put a target on its back because of its strong play early in the season.
"We've got to realize that nobody is going to half-step when they come rolling in here or we go in to visit them," Matheny said. "We know we're going to get their best effort, we're going to get their best excitement. We've been getting great draws so there's excitement in the stands whenever, and those are all compliments to the kind of caliber team we are."
• Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen has exactly two hits in nine of his last 14 starts and six of his last eight.
• Cardinals rookie reliever Kevin Siegrist has logged a 0.84 ERA over his first 23 Major League appearances.