ST. LOUIS -- Allen Craig picked a good time to hit the first grand slam of his career.
Launching a first-pitch fastball from J.J. Hoover over the wall in right field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the St. Louis right fielder erased his team's game-long deficit and led the Cardinals to an 8-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night at Busch Stadium.
It was the 13th homer for Craig this year, giving him 95 RBIs, tied with the Reds' Brandon Phillips for second in the National League. The slam also lifted the Cardinals (77-54) to their 11th win in 15 games and pushed them a half-game ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central.
Rookie Carlos Martinez (1-1) picked up his first major league win with two innings in relief of another rookie, starter Tyler Lyons. Edward Mujica pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 37 chances.
Manny Parra (1-3) absorbed the defeat after walking Matt Carpenter, the go-ahead run, to load the bases in the seventh. Parra, starter Mike Leake and Hoover were all victimized in a five-run seventh that erased Cincinnati's 5-3 lead.
Leake gave up a leadoff single to David Freese and a one-out double to pinch hitter Carlos Beltran before being replaced by Parra. After the walk to Carpenter, Parra got an infield out from Jon Jay, with Freese scoring to cut the deficit to a run.
Hoover relieved Parra and walked Matt Holliday, just missing with the 3-2 pitch. That set up Craig's opposite-field blast.
Jay Bruce lined a solo homer to left, his 25th, to lead off the eighth for Cincinnati (74-58). However, the Reds never got the tying run to the plate, and they fell 3 1/2 games back of St. Louis.
Cincinnati capitalized on Daniel Descalso's error in the top of the second for four runs, three unearned. Descalso whiffed on a hard-hit Devin Mesoraco grounder that could have resulted in an inning-ending double play.
Instead, Zack Cozart promptly drilled a two-run triple to right-center, and Todd Frazier followed three batters later with another two-run triple. Prior to that hit, a liner that center fielder Jay dived for and missed, Frazier was 1-for-39 against St. Louis pitching this year.
The Cardinals responded with three in the third off Leake. Carpenter singled, Jay walked and Holliday launched a hanging 1-0 breaking ball 442 feet to left for his 18th homer of the year.
NOTES: Cincinnati has had great difficulty winning games in St. Louis over the last decade, capturing just three of its last 29 series under the Gateway Arch. Its only series wins in that span were in May 2003, June 2006 and September 2011. ... The Cardinals collected a double in their 17th consecutive game, a season high. They have 68 two-baggers for the month, only the fifth time since 1946 that they've topped 60 in August. ... The Reds have lost six straight series to St. Louis, their longest stretch of failure in the series since dropping eight in a row from June 2003 to August 2004.