The last time the St. Louis Cardinals had a losing streak of longer than eight games, slugger Albert Pujols was four months old.
The Cardinals will try to avoid matching that dubious streak when they continue a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.
St. Louis lost 10 in a row from May 15-25, 1980. This year's team is close to that record, though, after losing their eighth straight 4-3 to the Brewers (52-57) on Friday.
St. Louis (58-50) also lost eight straight from June 20-27, yet remains in first place in the NL Central. Its lead was trimmed to 2 1/2 games with Cincinnati's 5-4 victory over Atlanta on Friday.
Making matters worse for St. Louis the loss of ace Chris Carpenter, who left Friday's game with an injury to the thumb on his pitching hand. X-rays indicated no break, but the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner's right thumb was quite swollen.
"He took that ball right off the top of his thumb and he's got quite a bit of swelling," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "That's the bigger issue, even above losing the game."
The Cardinals have been swept by the Cubs and Phillies - both with losing records - before Friday's loss. Juan Encarnacion had two hits and two RBIs but the Cardinals went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and have been outscored 54-29 during the streak.
St. Louis may have better luck against Ben Sheets (2-3, 4.58 ERA), who starts for the Brewers.
The right-hander is just 4-11 with a 4.11 ERA in 18 career starts against St. Louis and has lost his last three decisions versus the Cardinals, despite pitching well. Milwaukee has not provided Sheets with much run support, averaging only 3.12 runs in those starts.
He threw a complete game in his last outing against the Cardinals on Aug. 10, but took the loss as the Brewers were shut out 3-0.
Pujols is batting .388 (19-for-49) against Sheets with three homers and six RBIs. The 49 at-bats are tied for the most of any player against Sheets.
Sheets, however, has pitched effectively since returning from the disabled list. He didn't earn a decision in his first start back on July 25 against Pittsburgh, despite allowing only six hits and one run in seven innings. He got the victory on Sunday against Cincinnati after giving up two runs and seven hits in eight innings of a 4-3 win.
"Ben Sheets was outstanding," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "It was one of the best games we've seen all year."
Anthony Reyes (2-5, 4.56) will be looking to avoid his third straight loss for the Cardinals. The rookie right-hander also has suffered from a lack of run support, as St. Louis has averaged 3.33 runs in Reyes' nine starts this season.
He gave up three runs and six hits in six innings in a 4-2 loss to the Cubs on Saturday.
Reyes beat the Brewers in his first major league start on Aug. 9, allowing two hits and two runs in 6 1-3 innings. He's also made one relief appearance against Milwaukee, and has a 2.61 ERA in 10 1-3 innings against the Brewers.