CINCINNATI (AP)—Anytime a game comes down to one clutch hit, the St. Louis Cardinals seem to get it.
St. Louis came from behind twice to send it to extra innings, then sent nine batters to the plate in the 11th to hold onto its 10-game lead in the NL Central and the best overall record in the majors.
“It’s whoever had the last hero,” manager Tony La Russa said.
This time, it was Womack, who didn’t start the game and was in a 2-for-34 slump when he singled off John Riedling to snap a 5-all tie.
“I’ve been confident even without getting hits,” Womack said.
The Reds lost their sixth in a row—not the way they wanted to start a homestand that could very well determine their season. They blew a pair of leads and fell to .500 for the first time since May 13.
Much of the damage has been inflicted by the Cardinals, who have won nine of 11 against the Reds this season.
“They’ve got a great team,” first baseman Sean Casey said. “Everything you want to be, they have. We’ve just got to find a way to win.”
Last year, the Reds found ways to pull out games. They swept a four-game series from the Cardinals in May last year, two of them on game-ending homers followed by on-field celebrations.
“We’re getting a taste of what they felt last year,” Cardinals starter Woody Williams said. “We had to watch those guys bounce at that plate.”
There were six homers in all Monday, matching the ballpark record. Ultimately, it was decided on a routine fly.
Jim Edmonds led off the 11th with a four-pitch walk from Phil Norton (1-3), who couldn’t throw a strike to the only batter he faced. After John Mabry singled off Riedling, right fielder Wily Mo Pena let Mike Matheny’s fly deflect off the heel of his glove for an error, loading the bases.
“The ball just hit like that,” Pena said, showing where it went off his glove. “It can happen to anybody. Tonight, it happened to me.”
That was all the help St. Louis needed.
Ray King (4-1) retired Sean Casey to end the 10th, keeping the NL Central leaders in line for yet another extra-inning win. The Cardinals are 7-1 in extra innings this season.
Pena hit an RBI double in the bottom of the 11th off Jason Isringhausen, who finished off the Cardinals’ ninth victory in 12 games since the All-Star break.
Through eight innings, the teams matched homers.
Pujols’ drive to left-center denied starter Paul Wilson a chance for his career-high 10th win. Clinging to a 5-4 lead, the right-hander retired the first two batters in the eighth, then went to a full count against Pujols.
The next pitch—Wilson’s 112th—came in chest-high, and Pujols hit it into the seats in left-center to tie it.
Williams, trying for his 100th career victory, also gave up three homers for the first time this season.
D’Angelo Jimenez hit a two-run shot in the first that skimmed the right-field foul pole and set the tone for the night. Adam Dunn led off the sixth inning with his 27th homer, and Pena hit a solo shot one out later for a 5-4 lead.
It was an uncharacteristic showing by Williams, who has given up only 13 homers this season. The right-hander has allowed one or none in 16 of his 21 starts.
Plate umpire Mike Winters ejected Cardinals 2B Marlon Anderson in the eighth. Anderson slammed his bat on the plate after taking a called third strike … First base umpire Tim Timmons missed a call to open the ninth. Edmonds clearly beat a soft grounder to short, but was called out. Mabry later doubled. … SS Barry Larkin was out of the Reds lineup for the second straight game with a strained muscle in his side. … Cincinnati OF Austin Kearns took batting practice for the first time since he had surgery on his right thumb on July 3.