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05/15/10 1:11 AM ET

Cards, Reds square off in Civil Rights Game

Saturday's annual Civil Rights Game between the Cardinals and host Reds at Great American Ball Park has become a baseball celebration.

Last year's game between the Reds and White Sox was considered a huge success, and the Cardinals have experience with the event, too, having played in the first edition of the game when it was an exhibition in Memphis, Tenn., prior to Opening Day in 2007.

"We were honored to be part of the first one in Memphis," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We took a tour of the museum there, and it was very informative. I think anything that reminds people of history, and especially critical history, is very healthy. A lot of guys, they grow up now, and I asked them if they knew who Maury Wills was. No they didn't. Anything you can do to remind them ... the Civil Rights Game is a real good message to send from Major League Baseball."

In honor of the occasion, the teams will be wearing throwback uniforms from the year 1947, which was when Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Fans will receive a replica jersey of Chuck Harmon, who became the first African-American Reds player on April 17, 1954.

Once the game starts, the not-so-civil battle for a tight National League Central will commence, and both teams are major players in the division at this point in the season. After Friday night's 4-3 Cardinals win, St. Louis has a lead of 1 1/2 games on Cincinnati atop the division.

Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, who will start Saturday's game and also started the '07 edition of the Civil Rights Game, didn't want to overplay the importance of these games as bigger than any of the 162 of the regular schedule.

"No," Wainwright said. "It's a division foe that we need to beat, whether we're in first or second or fifth. So we're not going to put any more pressure on ourselves than we normally would to go in there and win."

Reds manager Dusty Baker is well-aware of the parity that seems to be developing in the Central, where anything can be expected.

"When you're in the division, you're going to gain or lose on somebody every day almost," Baker said.

"It shows you what our division is about, too. We got swept by the Pirates, we swept them. Houston swept St. Louis. You have to stay after it every day, because anybody can beat you at any time, depending on how hot or cold they are, what kind of pitching they're getting, how you're bats are going at that time."

Cardinals: No worries about slick baseballs
The past two times St. Louis has played in Cincinnati, the issue of slick baseballs has come up, but Wainwright said he's not concentrating on it going into Saturday's start. "And I don't think that anyone will," he said. "It's something that seems Mickey Mouse if they're doing it on purpose. If they're not doing it on purpose, then who cares? We're big league pitchers. We can pitch with it." ... Wainwright is 2-2 with a 4.46 ERA in 10 career appearances against the Reds, five of which were starts.

Reds: Leake looking good
Saturday's starter, righty Mike Leake, leads the Reds pitching staff with five quality starts and has pitched into the seventh inning in five of his six starts, going six innings in the other. In his six starts, the Reds have gone 5-1 and scored 28 runs. He's the first Reds pitcher to begin his Major League career 3-0 since righty starter Tom Shearn did it in 2007.

Worth noting
Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera has hit safely in seven straight games. His five sacrifice flies are tied for the Major League lead. ... Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is seven RBIs shy of tying Enos Slaughter (1,148) for second on the all-time St. Louis list and nine walks shy of tying Slaughter (839) for third.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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