ST. LOUIS -- Since the Reds had a scorching first week of the season, all of the other teams in the National League Central have had their moments of getting hot. While that happened, Cincinnati cooled off considerably.
Is another run of success coming around for the Reds again? Catching a wounded Cardinals team at exactly the right time, they earned a 5-2 victory on Saturday for their third consecutive win at Busch Stadium in the four-game series that concludes on Sunday.
"It’s huge for us," Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "Obviously [Busch Stadium is] a tough place to play for us for quite some time. Played some good ball these first three games, just got to keep it rolling into tomorrow."
The victory gave the Reds three straight wins for the first time since they ripped off six in a row from April 3-9 -- the first week of the 2021 season. Winners of four of the last five, they've moved up to two games under .500 at 27-29 and 2 1/2 games behind third-place St. Louis in the division.
It's been since 2006 since the Reds have won three straight games in St. Louis. They haven't swept a four-game series at Busch Stadium II or III since 1990.
"It's nice to get some good days back to back in a row, and there's momentum involved in that," Reds manager David Bell said. "But every day is different, just coming out and continuing to find a way each day. That's when things do get strung together like that, and that's what we're seeing now. You definitely don't set out to win a bunch in a row, but you set out to win each and every day."
A lineup that has often languished without Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel for several weeks has started finding more ways to produce. Cincinnati has scored 15 runs combined in these three wins.
Although batting .160 and entering the day 1-for-10 in the series, Eugenio Suárez is always capable of ruining the day of opposing pitchers. It was a 2-2 game in the sixth inning when Suárez -- moved down from leading off to the No. 6 spot -- delivered a two-run home run into the left-field bullpen on a 1-2 pitch from Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley.
"That was huge," said Barnhart, who was on first base. "He’s starting to look like Geno. The numbers may or may not say it, but he’s having consistently good at-bats it seems like, and that homer to give us the lead was massive. I told him when he came in, he hit it and I just started jogging because of the sound. It was just different, you knew it was a long homer."
Moved into the leadoff spot on Saturday, Jonathan India had another big game. India hit a two-out solo homer to left field against Cardinals starter Johan Oviedo. The blast was the rookie’s second in two games and fifth overall. India added a double in the fifth inning to notch a streak of eight straight plate appearances in which he reached safely. He grounded out in the sixth to end his streak.
The Reds also showed some hustle. Leading off the fourth inning, Tyler Naquin lined a ball into center field and never stopped sprinting out of the batter’s box for a hustle double. It proved big when Barnhart followed with a single to center field to score Naquin.
"If I’m 100 percent on it, I’m going there. I was 100 percent," Naquin said. "When I was rounding first base with a hard turn, I was 100 percent to get there. We’ve got Tuck behind me. He’s swinging the bat well. We just switched places right there. It was a big run."
Meanwhile, Nick Castellanos just keeps hitting. Two more singles extended Castellanos' career-best hitting streak to 21 games, which includes 15 multihit games. Castellanos is batting .464 during the streak.
"He’s riding that high, and it’s fun to watch," Naquin said. "You’re just on the roller coaster with him. Any time a player is feeling like that and going like that, you just stay out of the way and you give him that fist bump every time they deserve it."
One day after Luis Castillo snapped a personal seven-game losing streak with six strong innings, Reds starter Tyler Mahle pitched seven innings and gave up two earned runs and five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. Since giving up seven earned runs in two innings to the Giants in a 19-4 blowout loss on May 20, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA over his last three starts.
Mahle escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth inning and retired his final 11 batters in a row. Overall, he threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of his 27 batters.
"To take three so far the way we have without giving up a lot of runs and scoring some runs is huge for us," Mahle said. "Tomorrow, we go for the sweep.”