Aggressive Cardinals run past Reds

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- By no measure do the St. Louis Cardinals rely on speed, as they have stolen fewer bases than every team in the majors except the Detroit Tigers.

The Cardinals ran the bases very well Tuesday night, though, and it resulted in a win against a pitcher who's had their number in 2013.

Beating Cincinnati Reds ace Mat Latos for the first time in four chances, the Cardinals expanded their National League Central lead with a 6-1 decision at Busch Stadium.

Joe Kelly (6-3) won his sixth straight decision, scattering eight hits through six innings. Three relievers followed with three perfect innings.

"Joe did a great job," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "He keeps making good starts for us. He seemed to have things under control for the most part."

However, the key was aggressive baserunning. Matt Carpenter went from first to third on Carlos Beltran's first-inning single. Matt Holliday followed with an RBI single to right, and Beltran took advantage of Jay Bruce's bobble in right to move to third base. That led directly to another run, as Beltran came home when Allen Craig grounded into a double play.

In the bottom of the sixth, with the Cardinals clinging to a 2-1 edge, Beltran led off with a single. When Shin-Soo Choo ran down Holliday's deep fly ball near the warning track in center, Beltran tagged up and reached second safely, making a nifty slide to beat the tag of shortstop Zack Cozart.

Two pitches later, Craig lined a double to the left field corner for his 96th RBI, and St. Louis owned a two-run advantage.

"You have to be aggressive and smart," Beltran said. "You have to take advantage of every chance you get."

That seems to be a regular theme of Cardinals-Reds games -- St. Louis maximizes its chances and Cincinnati finds ways to squander promising situations.

The most obvious example came in the fourth, when Latos followed a two-out intentional walk to Cozart with a sharp single to center. However, Bruce was held at third, but Cozart kept running and eventually joined Bruce at the base. Kelly cut off Jon Jay's throw home and tagged out Cozart to end the inning.

"Sometimes, guys have to start being held accountable for their actions," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We have a few things to learn about playing winning baseball."

The Cardinals (78-54) are 10-4 against the Reds this year, outscoring them by a whopping 93-49. Teamed with the Pittsburgh Pirates' 7-6 home loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, Tuesday's result stretched St. Louis' division lead to 1 1/2 games over the Pirates and 4 1/2 over Cincinnati (74-59).

It was the 12th win in 16 games for St. Louis, which trailed Pittsburgh by four games on Aug. 10 after a 6-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

"You're going to go through stretches where you'll have trouble," Holliday said. "It's part of playing 162 games."

Cincinnati got its only run on the 100th career homer for Shin-Soo Choo, a leadoff shot in the fifth inning.

Latos (13-5) lost for just the second time since the All-Star break, giving up nine hits and four runs in six-plus innings. He was knocked out after yielding a pair of singles to start the seventh. After a double steal by Jay and Daniel Descalso, the Cardinals made it 4-1 on Carpenter's sacrifice fly off reliever Manny Parra.

David Freese's RBI single and Descalso's fielder's choice bouncer in the eighth wrapped up the scoring.

"We're going about it the right way," Matheny said of his team's recent play. "This is the team I've seen the bulk of the season."

NOTES: St. Louis recalled RHP Fernando Salas from Triple-A Memphis and optioned LHP Tyler Lyons, the starting pitcher Monday night, back to Memphis. The Cardinals won't need a fifth starter again until Sept. 3, when they're in Cincinnati ... Bruce is one of only 15 players in major league history to belt at least 20 homers in each of his first six seasons. When Bruce cracked his 25th in the eighth inning Monday night, it marked the fourth straight year he'd reached 25 ... Kelly is tied for the NL's longest active winning streak. Arizona RHP Brad Ziegler also has won six consecutive decisions.
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