Updated Sep 22, 2015 at 10:45a ET
St. Louis' offense was tardy to the series opener against Cincinnati. John Lackey hopes it was just saving up for him.
The Cardinals look to make Lackey's effectiveness against the Reds transfer to the win column as they go for a series victory over their NL Central rivals Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.
Cincinnati (63-86) hasn't won much in the second half of the season but is 6-5 against baseball's best team since the All-Star break. The Reds were in position to win Monday before St. Louis (94-56) rallied for two eighth-inning runs and a 2-1 victory, keeping its Central lead at four games over Pittsburgh.
The low offensive output is a trend for St. Louis, which ranks toward the bottom of MLB with 3.53 runs per game in September. The Cardinals have hit .120 with runners in scoring position over the past 11 games, though they hope Jhonny Peralta's RBI single and Stephen Piscotty's go-ahead double in the eighth can be a spark.
"It was tough to get that first run, and as soon as we did I think all of us were able to take a breather and relax," Piscotty said.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around two one-out singles in the ninth to match a franchise record with 47 saves, also achieved by Lee Smith (1991) and Jason Isringhausen (2004). Rosenthal recorded his fifth save in five chances against Cincinnati this year, having thrown eight scoreless innings in seven appearances.
St. Louis has lost all four of Lackey's outings versus the Reds in 2015. Lackey (12-9, 2.79 ERA) has a 2.57 ERA against them in three starts since the Midsummer Classic, but he is 0-2 while receiving four runs of support.
He's 11-1 in 17 starts when getting at least three. The right-hander is 3-4 since July 29 despite a 2.62 ERA, largely due to a 3.80 run support average.
Lackey has 15 quality starts in as many home games and has one in five straight outings overall, posting a 1.83 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. The 36-year-old reached 200 innings for the first time since 2010 by throwing seven scoreless to beat Milwaukee in Thursday's 6-3 win.
"Two hundred innings is a big number, sure," Lackey said. "I'm proud of myself for going out there and giving the team a chance to win."
St. Louis draws a chance to snap its offensive slump against struggling right-hander Keyvius Sampson, who returns to make his 10th start for the Reds after tending to a family matter over the weekend.
Sampson (2-5, 7.09) is 0-4 in his last six starts with a 10.07 ERA, failing to reach the fifth inning five times. Opponents are hitting .392 against him during the losing streak, and he's walked 14 in 22 1/3 innings.
Sampson lasted just three innings in a 5-3 loss at San Francisco last Monday, allowing four runs — three earned. It was his first outing without a strikeout and fourth start in the last five weeks failing to reach the fourth inning.
"This game has a way of not only showcasing your strengths but pinpointing your weaknesses," manager Bryan Price said.
Jay Bruce is 3 for 9 with two home runs against Sampson, who has never faced the Cardinals.
Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty announced after Monday's game that Billy Hamilton will undergo season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Friday. Hamilton led the majors with 57 stolen bases, but will end his season batting .226.
Matt Holliday struck out in the seventh inning while pinch hitting for St. Louis on Monday. Holliday has played just 14 games since injuring his right quadriceps on June 8, pinch-hitting three times since his activation from the disabled list last Monday.