ST. LOUIS -- They were the types of lineup alterations more befitting a reeling team. The leadoff hitter dropped to fifth. The No. 3 batter was pushed to the top. The slowest runner slotted in second, in the absence of the club's lone five-tool threat.But the Cardinals aren't reeling. They're
ST. LOUIS -- They were the types of lineup alterations more befitting a reeling team. The leadoff hitter dropped to fifth. The No. 3 batter was pushed to the top. The slowest runner slotted in second, in the absence of the club's lone five-tool threat.
But the Cardinals aren't reeling. They're rolling, winners of seven of eight and in first place in the National League Central after their new-look lineup squeezed out a 4-3 win over the Reds on Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
Hitting second for the first time in nearly four years, Yadier Molina's go-ahead homer off Jared Hughes in the seventh proved the deciding blow. Dropped to fifth in the order after a slow start, William Fowler launched a solo shot in the sixth. Hitting sixth -- already his fourth different lineup spot this season -- Paul DeJong's two-run homer opened the scoring in the second. All of which backed another masterful outing from Carlos Martinez, and sent St. Louis to its 10th consecutive win against the Reds.
"They're good hitters, they're going to hit no matter where we put them," manager Mike Matheny said. "I know guys don't necessarily like being bounced around. They like staying in one spot, and I get that. But sometimes we have to move one guy to push another guy a little bit, do something like that. Fortunately, we had some production today and big hits in big situations."
Pundits will debate endlessly the extent to which lineup construction matters, the answers often unclear. Fact is, Matheny's lineup won't look this way once Tommy Pham returns from a minor groin injury. But at least for one day, Matheny inked names in newsworthy spots, looking to tap into "the psychology" of Fowler and Matt Carpenter, his two important, and slumping, regulars. And the immediate results were plain to see.
Fowler's home run came on his bobblehead day, on an afternoon he entered hitting .176. Carpenter doubled after entering the day hitting .177. And Molina was only in the position to untie the game because he was hitting second, a rare space for any catcher. He earned a curtain call after uncorking a 404-foot shot off Hughes, an inning after the Reds erased a three-run lead against reliever Tyler Lyons.
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"The momentum had swung," Matheny said. "Yadi amazes us with the way he's not only able to get those types of things going, but switched over."
Struggling with his command while making his second appearance in two days, the left-handed Lyons didn't retire any of the four hitters he faced. Three were left-handed, including Scooter Gennett, who rocketed a game-tying single off Lyons while fireman Jordan Hicks watched from the bullpen.
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"I pushed Tyler too far," Matheny said. "And it hurt us."
Molina's homer then set the stage for the 21-year-old Hicks, who earned his first career win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Hicks needed one pitch to defuse Lyons' jam in the seventh, then breezed through the eighth. He loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman in the ninth, but remained in the game with Bud Norris unavailable and Greg Holland hardly warming. Using his triple-digit sinker, Hicks got Gennett to bounce into a game-ending double play.
"It was his game," Matheny said. "He has special stuff, and I think he has the makeup that allows you to put him out there in any situation."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong made a sensational over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right field on a soft liner by Adam Duvall in the sixth. Wong was able to complete the 4-3 double play after Gennett, who led off the inning with a single, broke for second to end a possible Reds rally.
"He goes back into the outfield like he did on that play, which changed the game, as good as anybody I've ever seen," Matheny said.
Martinez blanked Cincinnati for the second time this week, this time over six innings. In doing so, he extended his scoreless-innings streak to 18, the longest active streak in the Majors and the second longest this season. Martinez has allowed just a lone run over his last 27 1/3 innings pitched.
"Right now he's on another level," Molina said.
HE SAID IT
"I don't show much emotion on the mound. It's how I've been my whole life. My mom used to ask me, 'Do you want to play baseball?' Because I don't show much emotion. But I love it! I just kind of stay even." -- Hicks
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Cardinals challenged when one of Hicks' sinkers sizzled near the jersey of Reds shortstop Jose Peraza with one out in the ninth. The call stood after a 56-second review as a hit-by-pitch, pushing the tying run to second with Joey Votto coming up against Hicks. Votto walked before Hicks sealed the win with Gennett's double play.
The Cardinals will look for their 11th consecutive win against the Reds, and their second sweep of Cincinnati in a week, when this series concludes Sunday. The last time St. Louis won that many in a row against the Reds was 1949. Right-hander Miles Mikolas (2-0, 4.26) beat them last weekend, and returns to the mound for the 1:15 p.m. CT tilt. The Reds will counter with right-hander Luis Castillo.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.