Stephenson pitched two-hit ball for seven innings and Edgar Renteria’s RBI double woke up St. Louis’ slumbering offense in a 6-3 victory Thursday. The Cardinals had lost six straight to Cincinnati the last two weeks, getting outscored 34-19.
“We get irritated at losing, so maybe that helps a little bit,” Stephenson said. “But every game is the same, and we put in our piece every fifth day.”
Jim Edmonds hit a two-run homer and Renteria’s hit snapped a seventh-inning tie. The Cardinals had lost seven of the previous eight overall to fall from first in the NL Central to fourth, and the victory brought them back to .500 heading into a weekend series against the first-place Cubs.
“Yeah, they can’t beat us seven times in a row,” Scott Rolen said of the Reds. “You’re not going to roll over if you lose the first two, and today was a big win with a big series coming up.”
Griffey made his first start Wednesday since dislocating his right shoulder on April 5. Larkin missed his second straight start since reinjuring his left calf Tuesday, and Kearns sat out after driving in all four runs with a low-grade fever in Wednesday’s 4-0 victory.
Adam Dunn hit his team-leading 14th homer, and second in three games, for the Reds’ first run in the second.
“We have a lot of talent in this room and in the last two weeks our strength has started to show,” Cincinnati’s Aaron Boone said. “To play well against your division rivals—you figure this is the team to beat—is always a bonus.”
Rolen tied it with a run-scoring single in the fourth, snapping St. Louis’ 18-inning scoreless drought.
Renteria, who leads the NL with a .367 average, was 2-for-4 and snapped the tie with a double off John Riedling (0-2) with none out in the seventh. The hit scored Rolen from first after he was hit by a pitch to open the inning.
The Cardinals had been 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position in the three-game series before Rolen’s hit in the fourth.
St. Louis added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh off Kent Mercker on RBI singles by Tino Martinez and Fernando Vina. Martinez, who had been 3-for-30 with runners in scoring position, drove in his first run since April 26 and 10th overall after being bumped down a notch to seventh in the batting order a day earlier.
Edmonds snapped a 3-for-34 slump with his eighth homer off Felix Heredia in the eighth for a 6-1 lead.
Stephenson (3-2) was working on six days’ rest and allowed one run with three strikeouts and two walks. Besides Dunn’s homer, the Reds got only one runner into scoring position against the right-hander.
Stephenson, injured most of last season, topped last year’s victory total and won for the second time in seven starts. He allowed five runs in 5 1-3 innings in his last start, at Cincinnati on May 8, getting the loss.
The difference: “We’ll go to the easy part,” Stephenson said. “My ball was down today.”
Jeff Fassero threw a hitless eighth but loaded the bases in the ninth on three straight singles. Eldred came on and got three outs to finish the six-hitter, allowing a sacrifice fly to Dunn and Griffey’s run-scoring single.
Riedling, a converted reliever, worked a career-high six innings and allowed three runs on five hits. He struck out two and walked one.
It felt like I was getting into a groove,” Riedling said. “Probably thatlast inning I felt like maybe I was too comfortable.”
Danny Graves, who threw a four-hitter for his first career shutout on Wednesday, pinch ran for Larkin in the eighth after he drew a walk as a pinch-hitter. … The Reds have only four healthy infielders and got a scare when 2B Castro absorbed a hard slide from Renteria on a double play in the second. Castro limped off the field, but was able to finish the game. …Renteria leads the NL with 20 multihit games.