CINCINNATI -- With two mighty swings of the bat Wednesday night, first baseman Matt Adams turned a negative into a positive for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Adams, who entered the game in the fifth inning after starting first baseman Allen Craig left with a sprained left foot, hit two go-ahead home runs in extra innings, including the eventual game-winner in the 16th inning, and the Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-4 Wednesday at Great American Ball Park.
"It was tough to see Craig go down like that," Adams said. "You have to be ready. My swing has felt good the past few days in batting practice. It was a big win for us, especially against a team we're battling for a playoff spot."
With the victory, St. Louis (80-59) moved to within one game of first-place Pittsburgh in the National League Central. Cincinnati (78-62) remains 3 1/2 games behind the Pirates.
"That's a character win," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Guys were just grinding. Not giving up. Not giving in. Everybody did their part."
Cincinnati won the first two games of the four-games series, which concludes Thursday.
"We did have a lot of missed opportunities," manager Dusty Baker said. "They had some chances, we had some chances. How often do you see a guy take the lead twice?"
Rarely. In fact, Adams is the first Cardinal to hit two extra-inning homers in the same game.
"To do it twice is pretty special," Matheny said.
In the 14th inning, Adams launched a 1-2 pitch from Alfredo Simon into the right field stands, giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, pinch hitter Ryan Ludwick singled. Rookie Billy Hamilton pinch-ran for Ludwick and stole second, and he scored on Zack Cozart's single.
Two innings later, Adams went deep a second time, this one to right-center off Logan Ondrusek (3-1) for the decisive run.
Carlos Martinez (2-1) pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory. He was the ninth St. Louis pitcher of the night. Cardinals relievers retired 19 consecutive Reds batters before Shin-Soo Choo singled in the 12th.
Cincinnati used seven pitchers.
Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-6 with a double, walk, and two runs. He is 6-for-14 in the series.
"He's been such a spark for us," Matheny said.
Carpenter doubled and scored on Beltran's single in the sixth to tie the score 3-3.
Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller allowed three earned runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who has struggled in his career against St. Louis, pitched seven innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
Cincinnati's Zack Cozart and Ryan Hanigan singled to begin the second inning. Cozart scored from third on Choo's groundout, and Hanigan jogged home on Miller's wild pitch, putting Cincinnati ahead 2-0.
In the fourth inning, the Cardinals tied the score 2-2 when first baseman Joey Votto fielded Craig's grounder but threw wildly, allowing Matt Holliday to score.
Craig was hurt rounding first base on the play and was thrown out. He walked off the field, but after the game was on crutches in the clubhouse.
X-rays on Craig's foot were inconclusive. Craig is heading back to St. Louis for further evaluation.
"It's a nice time for Adams to feel good at the plate," Matheny said. "Anytime we're sending Allen Craig away to get looked at, it's not good news."
Brandon Phillips led off the fifth with a solo home run, and Cincinnati regained the lead, 3-2.
"The pitch to Phillips wasn't a good pitch at all," Miller said. "But, at the end of the day, it's about Matt Adams and the job our bullpen did."
Cincinnati went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base. In the 15th, Choo was at third base representing the go-ahead run, but Chris Heisey missed on a bunt attempt and Choo was retired in a rundown for the final out.
"You're not going to try a safety bunt with two outs," Baker said. "Heisey thought the third baseman was back, he was bunting for a hit. Choo was going to try to score."
NOTES: The solo home run gave Phillips his 100th RBI of the season, a career high. Phillips is the first Reds second baseman since Joe Morgan (111 in 1976) to reach 100 RBI in a season. ... Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook (back) threw a successful bullpen session Tuesday and is expected to be reinstated from the disabled list Friday when he's eligible. ... The Cardinals set their rotation for the weekend series against the first-place Pirates. RHP Joe Kelly will pitch Friday, followed by RHP Adam Wainwright on Saturday and RHP Michael Wacha on Sunday. ... Cardinals minor league 2B Brett Wiley was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a banned substance, the commissioner's office announced. ... Wednesday's game was the longest innings-wise in Great American Ball Park history.