CINCINNATI -- Michael Wacha wasn't as sharp as he was in his last outing, when he flirted with a no-hitter and fired eight shutout innings vs. the Pirates. But after being spotted a two-run lead before he even toed the rubber in Saturday's start against the Reds thanks to back-to-back
CINCINNATI -- Michael Wacha wasn't as sharp as he was in his last outing, when he flirted with a no-hitter and fired eight shutout innings vs. the Pirates. But after being spotted a two-run lead before he even toed the rubber in Saturday's start against the Reds thanks to back-to-back first-inning home runs from Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna, the right-hander grinded his way through 5 2/3 innings, winning his eighth consecutive decision in the Cardinals' 6-4 victory at Great American Ball Park.
"I got into some deeper counts and had some wasted pitches when I should have attacked a little more," Wacha said. "It still felt good out there. I was just a little erratic at times."
Wacha gave up two earned runs on four hits, with three walks and six strikeouts. Outside of a rough fourth inning, he kept Cincinnati off-balance at the plate for much of the afternoon as the Cardinals won their 13th consecutive game over the Reds dating back to last season.
"We knew we had our backs against the wall with how many bullets we had left in the bullpen," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Michael was really good, but we got to that point where it looked like we might need to get him some help."
Martinez and Ozuna spotted their starter an early cushion when they clubbed homers in the first inning off Reds starter Luis Castillo. Martinez's home run was his fourth in his last three games, and Ozuna sent his 435 feet, well over the fence in left-center. It exited the bat at 110.1 mph, the fourth-hardest home run hit by a Cardinal this season. Martinez is hitting .458 with 11 hits and nine RBIs in his last seven games.
"It was awesome to go back-to-back there in the first to give us a nice lead," Wacha said. "These guys are scoring a lot of runs for me, and it makes my job a lot easier trying to put up zeros to get us back into the dugout."
Yadier Molina pounced on a first-pitch fastball with two outs in the third inning, smacking a bases-clearing double to put the Cardinals up, 5-0.
Castillo looked sharp at times -- he struck out 10 in six innings of work -- but a trio of fastballs left over the middle portion of the plate proved costly for the young right-hander.
Wacha hit a speed bump in the fourth when Scooter Gennett hit a leadoff single and Eugenio Suarez followed with a towering homer into the upper deck in left field on a 3-1 cutter. But Wacha settled back in and retired eight of the next 10 batters he faced.
A Matt Carpenter solo shot added to the Cardinals' lead in the eighth, but the Reds wouldn't go down without a fight. They answered with a run in the bottom half, then got a solo homer from Jesse Winker off Sam Tuivailala in the eighth to make it a 6-4 game. Back-to-back singles from Adam Duvall and Jose Peraza put the tying run on base, but Tuivailala escaped the scare, and Jordan Hicks worked around a Joey Votto single in the ninth to record his first Major League save. He had to go through the heart of the Reds' lineup to get it, striking out Gennett and Suarez to end the game. Hicks was pitching for the third straight day.
"Two pretty good hitters there, and I was just trying to make my pitches and keep it down," Hicks said. "I left one up to Votto, but I got out of it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Molina clears the bases: Molina stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning with a golden opportunity to blow the game open. The rally was started by Wacha drawing a walk to lead off the inning, followed by a Carpenter single and a Martinez walk two batters later. Then Molina jumped on a first-pitch fastball, plating three runs and giving the Cardinals a 5-0 lead. It gave Molina 100 career RBIs against the Reds and 57 RBIs at Great American Ball Park, which is tied for second among visiting players, along with Jose Pujols. Molina has been greeted with boos from the Reds' faithful all weekend.
"What a big hit," Matheny said. "We almost missed the opportunity. He steps up with the bases loaded and the crowd booing him. It seems like it helps him. He responds well, and this is a place where he has hit the ball well. He is taking good at bats."
HE SAID IT
"We've got to keep the throttle down. If you take any kind of breath whatsoever, not that the guys were backing off, but it can get going in a bad direction in a hurry if you let it. Special efforts by these guys. It seems like when we get into spots where someone needs to step up, they do that. I think it comes from the leadership we have in the clubhouse." -- Matheny
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With Tuivailala in the midst of a two-on, two-out jam with the tying run at first base in the eighth inning, Scott Schebler hit a short chopper down the first-base line. Tuivailala fielded it, turned and threw to Carpenter at first base to get Schebler and end the inning. However, it looked as if Carpenter might not have kept his foot on the bag with Schebler bearing down on him. After a replay review, the call was confirmed.
Matheny felt Schebler should have been out anyway because he was running inside the base line.
"To me, [Schebler] was inside the line the entire way," Matheny said. "It comes down to the interpretation of the rule. It doesn't have to hit him, and it doesn't have to be an errant throw. If it impedes the play and he is inside that line, then someone has to make that call. That was my argument. Moot point anyhow, because we got the out. Nice job by Carpenter."
Carlos Martinez gets the start for the Cardinals in the series finale in Cincinnati, with first pitch at 12:10 p.m. CT. The right hander lasted four innings his last time out against the Marlins and gave up two earned runs on four hits, with five strikeouts and five walks. It was his first start since being placed on the disabled list May 9 with a strained lat. On the season, Martinez is 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA in nine starts. Anthony DeSclafani, who made his season debut Tuesday against the Rockies, will be on the mound for the Reds.
Brian Scott Rippee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.