Cardinals 5, Reds 0

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Chris Carpenter refused to allow the St. Louis Cardinals’ fast-dwindling NL Central lead to clutter his mind. The 2005 Cy Young Award winner just tried to pitch his game.

Carpenter threw a four-hitter and Ronnie Belliard had three hits and two RBIs in his biggest game since joining the Cardinals at the trade deadline, helping them stop a three-game skid with a 5-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.

“To be honest with you, I don’t treat it any different,” Carpenter said. “I need to go out and concentrate on making pitches and don’t concern myself with the importance of the game.”

Chris Duncan hit a two-run homer off Aaron Harang (12-8) as part of a three-hit night and Albert Pujols also had three hits for the Cardinals, who totaled three runs while getting swept in a three-game weekend series at last-place Pittsburgh. St. Louis won for only the second time in seven games overall and beat the second-place Reds for just the fifth time in 13 tries, moving 2 1/2 games in front.

Carpenter (11-6) squandered a 5-0 lead at Cincinnati last Wednesday while ending with a no-decision in a one-run loss. He was 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA in his past three starts. This time, he allowed only four singles, ran only one three-ball count and allowed only one runner to reach second base.

“He just didn’t miss,” said Cincinnati’s Scott Hatteberg, who was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. “He had a stripe on the inside corner for lefties and he hit it going this way and going that way at will.

“When he’s got that and 95 (mph), man, that’s unhittable.”

Carpenter didn’t allow a hit until Adam Dunn singled with one out in the fifth. The right-hander struck out six with no walks and a hit batsman.

“I was locating really well and wasn’t trying to overpower anybody,” Carpenter said. “I was just trying to hit the glove and my cutter was good. Everything was good.”

Carpenter, who lost twice to the Reds this season, is 3-3 for his career against Cincinnati and now has a losing record against only two NL teams—the Mets and Brewers. He has two shutouts this year, the other coming on a two-hitter against the Dodgers on July 14, and 11 for his career.

Harang lasted five innings, his shortest start since June 12 against Milwaukee—not counting a two-inning appearance in a rain-delayed game. He gave up five runs and eight hits, losing for the first time in three decisions at new Busch Stadium.

Harang threw an inning of relief on Friday in a 14-inning loss at Philadelphia, but did not believe that was a factor.

“You can’t blame that,” Harang said. “It’s just one of those nights where I didn’t feel everything was there and just felt off.”

Belliard, acquired from the Indians to end a platoon at second base, was 9-for-44 with three RBIs in his first 12 games with the Cardinals. His RBI single in the second was the 1,000th hit of his career and it put St. Louis ahead. His run-scoring double in the fourth made it 2-0, and he also singled in the fifth.

Belliard also had two hits on Sunday.

“The guys in here welcomed me pretty good, made me feel comfortable,” Belliard said. “Maybe I was pressing a little bit early.”

Duncan’s 11th homer in only 147 at-bats was the highlight of a three-run fifth that gave the Cardinals a 5-0 cushion. The other run scored when Pujols doubled, advanced on a sacrifice and scored when Harang bounced a breaking ball off the plate for a wild pitch.

Notes

Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds took the field before the fifth, but left before a pitch was thrown, complaining of dizziness. Edmonds, who hit a grand slam off Harang last week in Cincinnati, was moved to cleanup ahead of Scott Rolen in a late lineup shuffle. … The Cardinals are 26-30 against the NL Central. Their last losing record in the division was 27-34 in 1999. … Carpenter has a major league-best 32 victories over the last two seasons. This was his 22nd career complete game, nine of them coming in the past two seasons. … The Reds’ Jason LaRue is in an 0-for-23 slump. He grounded out with two on to end the fifth, his team’s best scoring chance. … Edwin Encarnacion was 0-for-3, ending a 10-game hitting streak.

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