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Cards hit 3 early HRs, cut WC deficit to 2 1/2

September 20, 2017

CINCINNATI -- With the Cardinals having a lot of ground to make up in their hunt for the postseason, they need to play well and get help from others. St. Louis did its part by attacking the Reds early and rolling to a 9-2 victory on Wednesday night at Great

CINCINNATI -- With the Cardinals having a lot of ground to make up in their hunt for the postseason, they need to play well and get help from others. St. Louis did its part by attacking the Reds early and rolling to a 9-2 victory on Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park.
Meanwhile, the Rockies lost to the Giants to put the Cardinals 2 1/2 games back for the second National League Wild Card spot. In the division race, a loss by the first-place Cubs to the Rays inched third-place St. Louis to five games back in the NL Central. The Cards are only 1 1/2 behind the second-place Brewers in both the division and Wild Card standings following the Crew's walk-off loss to the Pirates.
"I'm awful excited about how we just played," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We had good starting pitching and good defense. [Tommy Pham] had a big day [two doubles and a single] and Matt Carpenter got on base three times, which is a good day for a leadoff guy."

In his first big league start since May 8, Reds starting pitcher Rookie Davis began the game by allowing Carpenter's leadoff home run. Davis gave up four more runs in the third inning to fall into a 5-0 hole. Following Pham's RBI double, back-to-back homers came via William Fowler's two-run shot to right field and Paul DeJong clearing the fence in left.
Davis was pulled after three innings and five earned runs and five hits.
"It's tough whenever this happens," Davis said. "Obviously, whenever you go out there, you want to throw a quality start. Those guys are right in the thick of things and you want to beat them. It came down to I didn't pitch like I needed to. I didn't force early contact when I needed to."
"[Davis] made good pitches the first time through," Matheny said. "Then we worked him a little harder."
Meanwhile, Cardinals rookie Luke Weaver provided five innings for the victory with two earned runs, five hits, no walks and seven strikeouts. It was the seventh straight start Weaver has won, with the last two coming vs. Cincinnati. In those seven starts, he's allowed eight earned runs in 42 1/3 innings (1.70 ERA) with 57 strikeouts.

Weaver retired a stretch of 10 in a row and took a shutout into the fifth before Jose Peraza hit a leadoff single and scored on Patrick Kivlehan's RBI double. Kivlehan scored on Jesse Winker's two-out RBI single to make it a 7-2 game.
The Reds would get no closer, and the Cardinals were able to tack on insurance runs in the sixth and ninth innings.

A quick 1-0: Carpenter set the tone early when he worked a full count against Davis to begin the night before pulling a 92-mph fastball into the right-field seats. It was the fourth time this season that Reds pitchers have allowed a leadoff homer. It was also the fourth time the Cardinals began a game with a homer, and the second time Carpenter did it.
Fowler on fire: In the third inning with two outs and a runner on second base, Fowler slugged a 90-mph first pitch from Davis and put it in the right-field seats. It gave him a career-high 18 homers, and it was also his third in as many games. Fowler has four RBIs in the first two game of the series, including the 10th-inning game-winner on Tuesday.

"Just some deep counts, they got a chance to see a lot of pitches, and the mistakes were on the barrel in the air, and unfortunately, out of the ballpark. ... I think they had a chance to see his stuff early, and it's certainly a work in progress." -- Reds manager Bryan Price, on Davis
"This is a ballpark where it's known the balls will fly a little bit. You need to be smart with how you're pitching." -- Weaver, on pitching in Cincinnati
Joey Votto's two-out single in the first inning marked his Major League-leading 300th time reaching base safely this season. It's the third year that Votto has reached that many times, and he is one of three Reds to do it in franchise history. The others were Pete Rose and Shin-Soo Choo. Rose did it four times for Cincinnati in 1969, '73, '75 and '76.
Pham doubled twice, singled and drove in two runs. Batting .309, Pham has a chance to finish the season as the first Cardinals batter since 1900 with 20 home runs, 20 doubles, 20 steals and a .300-plus average.

With runners on first and second base in the sixth, Weaver attempted a bunt that was quickly retrieved in front of the plate by catcher Tucker Barnhart. After Barnhart successfully threw to second base for the force play, shortstop Zack Cozart threw to first, where Weaver was called out. The Cardinals thought Weaver beat the throw and challenged. Following a quick replay review, the call was overturned.

Cardinals:Carlos Martinez (11-11, 3.57), who has been battling the flu, will try to help the Cardinals feel better about their postseason prospects. He is scheduled to start Thursday against the Reds in the series finale at 6:10 p.m. CT at Great American Ball Park. Martinez is coming off a forgettable start in Chicago in which he was charged with seven earned runs over 5 1/3 innings of an 8-2 loss to the Cubs.
Reds: Veteran Homer Bailey will be tasked with trying to help the Reds avoid a three-game series sweep vs. St. Louis on Thursday. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET. The last time he faced the Cardinals, however, Bailey allowed a career-high 10 earned runs and 10 hits over 3 1/3 innings in a 13-4 loss on Aug. 6 at Great American Ball Park.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Andy Call is a contributor to based in Cincinnati and covered the Cardinals on Wednesday.