CINCINNATI (AP)—At this rate, nobody’s going to catch the Cardinals.
The Cardinals are 10-3 since the All-Star break, surging to the majors’ best record and a daunting double-digit lead in the NL Central. Half of those wins have come against Cincinnati, which is 2-10 against St. Louis this season.
It reminds Sanders of his 2001 season in Arizona, when he helped the Diamondbacks win the World Series.
“That team had veterans who had an urgency to win now,” Sanders said. “I think there’s a little bit of that here now, that urgency to get one. We’ve just got to continue to be relentless and keep that edge.”
By contrast, the NL’s biggest surprise of the first three months has gone flat.
The Reds managed only three hits as they lost their seventh in a row overall, matching their worst slump of the season. Cincinnati slipped below .500 for the first time since right-hander Cory Lidle (6-9) lost the season opener.
“I don’t think anybody thought this was going to happen,” said Lidle, who hasn’t won since June 30. “I don’t know if stunned is the right word, but we’re not too happy about it.
“After the All-Star break, we went up against some teams that were playing well. We thought we were still in it, but we kept falling down the ladder. We need to figure something out quick and get some of our key players back.”
The Cardinals have it all.
Marquis hasn’t lost since May 26, going 8-0 with a pair of no-decisions and a 2.90 ERA. He left the game for a pinch-hitter in the eighth, having thrown 99 pitches.
The right-hander came to the Cardinals from Atlanta as part of the trade for J.D. Drew in the offseason. After failing to win a consistent role with the Braves, he’s become a constant in the Cardinals’ surge.
“They let me go,” Marquis said. “To me, they made a mistake. I don’t want to sound cocky about it.”
Marquis also has been sensational at the plate. He doubled home a pair of runs with two outs in the third inning off Lidle, who struggled with his control in a five-inning stint. Marquis’ 13th hit this season—the most by any pitcher in the majors—put the Cardinals ahead 5-0.
“I just feel comfortable with it,” Marquis said of his hitting. “I work on it between starts. I just have fun with it.”
The Reds had one chance to get back into it, and Marquis snatched it away.
The right-hander’s only lapse came in the fourth, when he walked Adam Dunn and D’Angelo Jimenez with two outs to load the bases. Wily Mo Pena, who leads the league with two grand slams, broke his bat on a soft liner to shortstop Edgar Renteria that ended the threat.
Marquis, who threw eight innings during a 4-0 victory over Milwaukee in his last start, allowed three hits, walked three and struck out six.
“He’s just beginning to scratch the surface of what he can be as a pitcher,” manager Tony La Russa said. “Give him another couple of years. He’s got the drive, the talent, the guts. He’s fun to watch.”
The Reds’ rotation has been largely to blame for their slide out of contention. In the last seven games, Reds starters are 0-4 with a 10.13 ERA.
Lidle has been in a deep rut, going 0-4 in his last five starts while giving up 25 runs in 26 2-3 innings. Lidle led the AL in runs allowed last season, and is third in the NL this year.
Sanders hit his 17th homer off Lidle in the second, and Edmonds led off the fifth with his 26th homer, five of them since the All-Star game.
The last Cardinals pitcher to win eight straight decisions was Matt Morris in 2001. … Marquis is hitting .289 with seven RBIs. … Reds OF Ken Griffey Jr. caught fly balls in the outfield and ran the bases at less than full speed, protecting his injured right hamstring. “I ran pretty good,” he said. “It doesn’t grab, but I can’t fully extend it yet.” There’s no timetable for his return from the DL. … Reds OF Jason Romano had surgery to reattach the top of his right hamstring to the bone. Romano will be sidelined for four to six months.