In the first of a four-game at Great American Ball Park, the Cardinals put up seven runs between the fifth and sixth innings to enjoy a 7-4 win over the Reds on Thursday. With the win, St. Louis has won five of seven games out of the All-Star break and has improved to 49-46. With a victory, the Cardinals sit just 2 1⁄2 games back of the Cubs in the National League Central and two games behind the Brewers.
This is by far the shortest separation of divisional races in baseball. The Nationals are 5 1⁄2 games behind the Braves in the East, while the second-place Indians sit just four games back of the Twins in the American League Central - but the third-place White Sox are 16 games out. So, as far as having three legitimate division contenders, you will only find that kind of drama between Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis.
The Cardinals went down in order in the first facing Tanner Roark, with swinging strikeouts by Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt and a Jose Martinez groundout in between.
With two outs in the home half of the first, Reds third baseman and birthday boy (28!) Eugenio Suarez lined a solo home run to left-center field, his 24th of the season to up his team lead in homers. As for Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson, it was the first homer he had allowed to the Reds this season.
Tyler O’Neill singled to lead off the Cardinals’ half of the second and had second base easily swiped - except he didn’t. Dexter Fowler struck out swinging on the pitch O’Neill was running on and interfered with Reds catcher Juan Graterol. So Fowler and O’Neill were out, and Matt Wieters grounded out to end the second frame.
The Reds appeared to have something going against Hudson in the second, as Scooter Gennett drew a walk and Phillip Ervin was hit by a pitch. This was spoiled quickly with a double play off the bat of Jose Iglesias and a force play from Graterol.
Kolten Wong singled with one out in the third inning before Hudson bunted into a double play. Hudson’s bunt was fielded by first baseman Joey Votto, who flipped to the shortstop Iglesias and the second baseman Gennett covering over at first.
After a few missed opportunities on both sides, the Reds were the first team to put a crooked number on the scoreboard on Thursday. Roark hit his first double of the season to lead off the third and advanced to third on a Jesse Winker single. Votto pulled a single to right field to plate Roark, and Winker scored on a sacrifice fly from Suarez. Yasiel Puig doubled to push Votto to third, but both were stranded. Nonetheless, the Reds now owned a 3-0 lead.
The Cardinals left a pair of runners on in the fourth. Martinez walked and O’Neill lined a base hit to center, but the team failed to keep the line moving. Luckily, Hudson was able to work around a single from Iglesias to open the Reds’ half of the fourth and keep the deficit within reason. And St. Louis was able to erase that deficit in the fifth.
Wieters singled to open the fifth and Paul DeJong hit his first homer (a liner off the left-field pole) to account for his first homer in nearly a month and take a big chunk out of Cincinnati’s lead. After Hudson turned in a scoreless fifth, the Cardinals got back to work in the sixth.
With one down in the sixth and Robert Stephenson now on the mound for Cincy, Fowler walked and moved to third on a Wieters base hit. Fowler came around to score on a DeJong single, and Wong loaded the bases on a base hit, ‘forcing’ the Cardinals to pinch-hit for Hudson. Yairo Munoz flew out to Puig, and the lineup turned back over with the bases loaded and two outs. On the first pitch he saw from Stephenson, the rookie Edman lined a grand slam over the center to put the Cardinals up, 7-3. For Edman, it was the first grand slam of his career and the first hit by a Cardinal this season.
THAT WAS GRAND TOMMY EDMAN! pic.twitter.com/j96Q1jURLd— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 19, 2019
From there, the St. Louis bullpen took over and looked sharp - for the most part. John Gant faced four batters and recorded only one out and allowed the Reds’ fourth run of the night. Giovanny Gallegos induced a double play to end the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh, highlighted by strikeouts of Suarez and pinch-hitter (another birthday boy; he turned 30!) Derek Dietrich. John Brebbia worked a clean eighth, needing only nine pitches (seven strikes) to retired the lower-third of the Reds’ batting order.
Quiet since the grand sixth inning, the Cardinals got their first base runner since that inning with a walk by Harrison Bader to greet the Reds’ fourth reliever of the night, Jimmy Herget. Bader entered the game as part of a double switch when Gallegos took the mound earlier in the ballgame. With one out, Edmundo Sosa for Brebbia and looped a single to right field for his first Major League hit. Bader attempted to go from first to third, but Puig fired a missile from right field to cut him down. At the same time, Sosa attempted to take second on the play, but the third baseman Suarez quickly flipped the ball over to the shortstop Iglesias, who held the tag on Sosa and recorded the out when the 23-year-old came off the bag. So, it was a 9-5-6 double play to end the top of the ninth inning, and the Reds had one more shot with the top of the lineup due up.
The Cardinals called on Andrew Miller to work the bottom of the ninth, and Miller was greeted by a line-drive single from Winker. Miller got Votto swinging with a nasty slider, and Suarez lined a shot to third that Edman caught for the second out. A come-backer from Puig ended the night, as Miller flipped to Goldschmidt at first to secure a 7-4 win for St. Louis. This was Miller’s second save of the season.
The Cardinals and Reds will meet again on Friday. Tyler Mahle and Adam Wainwright are the scheduled pitchers for the 6:10 PM game at GABP.