ST. LOUIS (AP)—This time, Danny Graves got the job done. Barely.
The Cincinnati Reds closer, victimized for all but one run in the St. Louis Cardinals’ six-run eighth inning the previous night, needed a three-run cushion to finish off the NL Central leaders 5-4 on Wednesday night.
“It had me on edge,” Reds first baseman Sean Casey said. “In the ninth, I was about to call timeout to get some Tums for myself. I thought I needed some Mylanta right there.”
Rookie Josh Hancock won for the first time as a starter and Casey drove in three runs for the Reds, who had lost six in a row to the Cardinals.
“I was sure glad to see that groundball,” manager Dave Miley said. “That third out is tough to get against that club over there.”
The loss was only the third in 14 games for the NL Central leaders, and it also ended their seven-game home winning streak. St. Louis is 13-3 against the Reds.
“It was really exciting at the end,” manager Tony La Russa said. “But they did more than we did.”
The Cardinals were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position before the ninth, and finished 3-for-12.
Woody Williams (9-7) failed in an attempt to give the Cardinals five 10-game winners for the first time since 2000. He struck out 11, one off his career best, but gave up five runs on nine hits in six innings.
“This is my loss, not the team’s,” Williams said. “I take full responsibility. I don’t want strikeouts, I really don’t.”
Hancock (3-1) was acquired by the Reds from Philadelphia near the trade deadline and joined the rotation after Cory Lidle was traded to the Phillies earlier this month. Making his fifth start in the majors, he lasted 6 2-3 innings and gave up two runs on five hits to a team that totaled 17 runs in the first two games of the series.
Hancock was almost as excited about his first career sacrifice bunt in the sixth.
“The biggest thing I was proud of was getting that sac bunt,” Hancock said. “That’s the one thing I’ll go home and talk about.”
Graves gave up an RBI triple to pinch-hitter Tony Womack and an RBI single to Marlon Anderson. After a two-out walk to Larry Walker—who hit a grand slam off Graves the previous night—Pujols chopped a grounder to third base.
Graves took treatment for a sore back after the game and declined to talk to reporters.
Wily Mo Pena homered and the Reds also had four doubles against Williams, who lost for the first time in 12 starts. He had been 6-0 with a 2.58 ERA in the previous 11 outings.
The Reds jumped on Williams in the first with two straight hits, a single by Felipe Lopez and double by D’Angelo Jimenez. Casey drove in the game’s first run with a groundout and Adam Dunn followed with an RBI double.
Williams struck out the side in the second, but also allowed two runs on three hits as the Reds moved ahead 4-0 on Casey’s two-run single.
Rolen hit his 29th homer in the fourth and Pena answered with his 22nd for the Reds in the fifth.
Pujols’ RBI double cut the gap to 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth, but the Cardinals missed a chance for more when a relay from short by Jimenez caught Walker at the plate for the third out.
Pujols leads the NL with eight homers and 20 RBIs in August, and is batting .395 (15-for-39) during a nine-game hitting streak.
Reds SS Barry Larkin (oblique) was out of the starting lineup for the seventh straight game. He fouled out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. … Williams’ strikeout total was the most by a Cardinals pitcher since Chuck Finley fanned 12 on Sept. 1, 2002, at Chicago. Williams’ career best is 12 strikeouts on Aug. 23, 1999, against the Phillies, when he pitched for the Padres. … The Reds have won only three of their last nine overall and are 10-24 in their last 34 road games. … Williams has faced the Reds five times, going 1-1 with a 5.45 ERA. He’s faced them three times since July 16, allowing five runs in six innings each time. “It’s one of those bad draws,” Williams said. “It’s like an intersquad game almost.”