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Cardinals Pound Reds, Keep Pace in Central

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13 runs on 14 hits buried the Reds in the first of three before a trip to Chicago

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Lynn versus Robert Stephenson quickly turned sour for the Reds’ young starter. The Cardinals offense was patient all night at the plate as Stephenson struggled with his control. Exploding to the tune of eight runs in the first four innings, hammering away on the Reds’ and their anemic bullpen was the headline of this 13-4 victory.

Lynn cruised through four innings - save a Zack Cozart home run in the first inning on a high fastball - before running into trouble in the fifth. The good news is that Lynn could have dug himself a hole the size of Busch Stadium and still crawled away with net-positive results. Backed by four walks from Matt Carpenter, and six hits and eight RBIs from the club’s three-four-five hitters, the Cardinals received ample reps in preparation for a big series against the Chicago Cubs this weekend.

Robert Stephenson is a pitcher with a track record highlighted with disappointment, and although tonight felt very much like solidification of that lackluster reputation, the 24-year-old displayed signs of life in his last few starts on the back of a curveball-to-slider switch. The issue, discussed recently by Paul Sporer of Fangraphs and Rotographs, is Stephenson’s general lack of an effective fastball, stemming directly from his inability to either control or rely on the pitch. As with most young pitchers, a lack of fastball command - or in Stephenson’s case the much larger issue of control - doesn’t allow a starter to work in counts where their much more effective offspeed pitches can be used effectively. This, in essence, was the righty’s problem tonight and the Cardinals - as a team now eight games over the .500 mark should act - forced Stephenson into disadvantageous counts very quickly.

Yadier Molina got the Cardinals on the board first with a two-run double after seeing back-to-back changeups - his team leading 73rd and 74th RBIs on the season. Tommy Pham joined the party an inning later as he smoked a triple the other way, scoring two, and quickly crossing the plate himself after another mistake pitch from Stephenson allowed Paul DeJong to pepper the wall in left. Two more hits and a sacrifice fly from Randal Grichuk in the third inning spelled the end for the Reds’ starter as he only lasted three innings. The red-hot Jose Martinez added two more with a double an inning later off reliever Alejandro Chacin, leaving the Cardinals with a seven-run lead as the fifth inning brought about some life in the Reds’ offense.

Lynn only allowed one baserunner outside of the Cozart home run through the fourth inning, but failed to retire Scott Schebler and Adam Duvall to start the fifth, as both came around to score on hits from Patrick Kivlehan and Jesse Winker. Removing a few pitches from Kivlehan’s at bat, Lynn had a lot of trouble keeping pitches down in the zone in this inning. He missed up multiple times as he had a brief battle with his control - emulating Stephenson’s entire start to some extent - but was able to escape without extreme damage and secure his 11th win of the year after going five innings, walking none, and striking out three. I wasn’t sure if it was a mechanical issue in the inning itself, but I would have had no issues sending Lynn back out for another inning or two if the game was close. Matheny’s hook with the low pitch count was likely with confidence that his offense had a grasp the game’s fate.

After Lynn’s exit, the 8-4 game quickly became 13-4. DeJong smacked his 22nd home run of the year on an eye-level 3-2 fastball, while Yadier Molina added to his RBI total with a single (this time his 75th). Carpenter then deviated from the excessive walking he branded this game with and smacked a double of his own off Ariel Hernandez and his grotesque 7.02 FIP. Hernandez acted as the bandage for a messy wound, walking in the game’s 12th run, and letting Kolten Wong drive in the 13th.

A pair of prospects, Jack Flaherty and Tyler Mahle take the mound in St. Louis tomorrow as the Cardinals search for their fifth straight win. With the Cubs winning another tonight, the club is still only two back in the NL Central.

Notes

  • Jedd Gyorko might return over the next day or two as a pinch hitter. If you’re one for speculation, that would probably mean a weekend or early next week return is in store.
  • In the first inning, Zack Cozart hit his 20th home run of the season, the sixth player on the Reds this year with 20+ homers. This is the first time in franchise history the team has achieved such a feat.
  • Adam Wainwright and a praying mantis had a staring contest... Yes, this is not a joke.
  • Feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I tweet far too much about baseball, and venture to my site, BigThreeSports.com.