Starting pitcher Dakota Hudson will seek to extend his domination of the Cincinnati Reds as the St. Louis Cardinals try to complete a three-game home series sweep on Sunday.

The Cardinals won the first two games, 2-0 Friday and 5-4 Saturday on Tommy Edman’s two-out, two-run walk-off homer.

Hudson (4-2, 2.76 ERA) is 6-0 with a 2.29 ERA in nine career appearances against the Reds, including eight starts. He earned a 5-0 victory at Cincinnati earlier this season while allowing two hits and four walks in 6 2/3 innings.

Reds hitters Joey Votto (5-for-23), Aristides Aquino (0-for-7), Kyle Farmer (0-for-3), Tommy Pham (0-for-3) and Colin Moran (2-for-11) have struggled against Hudson in their careers.

Hudson has allowed just two runs over 18 2/3 innings in his last three starts. He surrendered just two hits in his last start, a 4-2 loss to the host Tampa Bay Rays in 10 innings.

Hudson’s brisk pitching pace in that game pleased Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux.

“He kept everybody on their toes, ready to make plays,” Maddux said. “He’s in a good spot. We’re in a good spot when he’s in a good spot.”

After failing to work past five innings in four straight starts, Hudson completed seven innings twice in a row.

The Reds, who have lost seven of their last nine games, will counter with rookie Graham Ashcraft (3-0, 1.14 ERA), who will be making his fifth big league start. He has never faced the Cardinals.

Ashcraft has held opponents to a .176 batting average in his first four starts.

“I feel great,” Ashcraft said. “There is really not much more I can ask for. I’ve got guys making great plays behind me. I have a lot of support between family and teammates. I’m very happy with the things I’ve been doing and very grateful.”

Ashcraft threw six scoreless innings in his previous start, a 14-8 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday. He allowed just three hits, walked nobody and got nine ground ball outs.

“I’d like to think you can expect these kind of outings every time,” Ashcraft said. “I’m really just out there, giving it all I’ve got and throwing the dickens out of it.”

While the Reds have received some better starting pitching lately, their struggling bullpen has left manager David Bell grasping for solutions. Joel Kuhnel suffered the team’s seventh blown save Saturday when he allowed Edman’s homer.

“He pitched last night, pitched again today, to go back out… he faced a hitter too many,” Bell said. “He’s been pitching so well. He has earned it. But it’s putting a lot on him, two days in a row.”

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol removed starting center fielder Harrison Bader after the sixth inning Saturday for disciplinary reasons. But Bader should be back in the starting lineup Sunday.

“I had a great conversation with him; he respected it,” Marmol said. “There’s expectations when it comes to effort. It wasn’t met today. So he’ll be back in there tomorrow.”

Moran exited Saturday’s game in the seventh inning for the Reds after Dylan Carlson collided with him at first base, so he is questionable for this game.

–Field Level Media