CINCINNATI -- The Cardinals put the potential go-ahead run on base in the top of the eighth inning on Friday but will have to wait until Saturday to try and push him home.
Friday's game against the Reds at Great American Ball Park was halted due to rain after Jhonny Peralta reached on an error, and then eventually suspended due to an ominous forecast for the rest of the evening. The 2-2 game will be resumed at 11:30 am CT on Saturday, ahead of the regularly scheduled afternoon contest.
Heavy rain moved into the area just before the top of the eighth, which opened with shortstop Eugenio Suarez dropping a routine infield popup. The umpires then summoned the groundscrew to cover the field. After a 67-minute delay, the game was officially suspended.
The Cardinals will resume play on Saturday holding a four-game National League Central lead over the Pirates and a six-game advantage over the Cubs. Both clubs won on Friday, with Chicago sweeping a doubleheader against the Phillies.
St. Louis will have a fresh bullpen ready for Saturday, as starter John Lackey pitched all the way up until the Friday's stoppage. He helped stabilize a fracturing Cardinals rotation by making his 17th straight start of at least six innings.
"That's important to me, for sure, to be able to throw a lot of innings and give the bullpen a break on my day," Lackey said. "I was fortunate to be able to make some good pitches in some big spots and keep us in it."
Lackey limited the Reds to a pair of runs in the first two innings while tying his season high with 10 strikeouts. With the game tied, he twice stranded runners on the corners, retiring Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier to thwart a fifth-inning rally and then striking out Phillips in the same spot in the seventh.
"He was terrific, absolutely terrific," manager Mike Matheny said of his veteran starter. "Think about the high-leverage situations he got himself into and pitched himself out of with the same spot in the order twice. He figured out how to get it done."
Lackey remains the pitcher of record and would therefore be in line for his 12th win if the Cardinals take the lead in the top of the eighth and hold it. Who Matheny summons as his first man out of the bullpen on Saturday will depend upon what happens in the top half of that frame.
Having a relief corps of 11 will help the Cardinals navigate through the innings necessary to complete the game and then the next one that follows.
"I think probably every team in both leagues now feels a little more prepared for something like this than any other time," Matheny said. "It's nice having the extra arms around."
The Cardinals scored twice off Reds starter Michael Lorenzen, first tying the game with an RBI groundout by Lackey in the second and then evening it back up in the fourth when Greg Garcia connected for his second career home run.