CINCINNATI (AP) -- With their hitting slump a thing of the past, the Cardinals can relax and focus on getting back into first place.
It's only a half-game away.
David Freese set the tone with a bases-loaded double in the first inning, and Daniel Descalso hit two of the Cardinals' three homers on Friday night as St. Louis pulled away to a 13-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cardinals have emerged from a deep hitting slump by scoring 13 runs in each of their last two games. It's the first time this season they've had double-digit run totals in consecutive games.
''Our guys put so much pressure on themselves,'' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ''They're perfectionists. It was frustrating for a quite a few days. It was good to see some energy. I hope we can keep riding it.''
While the Cardinals have emerged from their hitting slump, the Reds are still stuck in theirs.
Shelby Miller (11-7) limited Cincinnati to two singles over the first five innings before Joey Votto hit a three-run homer in the sixth. The Reds managed only six hits, five of them singles. They've been held to three or fewer runs in six of their last seven games.
''I felt really good,'' Miller said. ''That was some of the best stuff I had all year. I kind of let it get away from me in the sixth inning. I guess I kind of lost my focus, which is something that shouldn't let happen.''
In every respect, it was a night the Reds wanted to forget.
''This is a game that depends upon how short a memory you have,'' outfielder Jay Bruce said.
Bronson Arroyo (9-9) matched his season high by giving up seven runs in only 3 2-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.
Freese also had a bases-loaded walk, giving him four RBIs. Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran each had three hits as St. Louis piled up 14 in all.
The 13 runs were the most allowed by Cincinnati this season.
''These guys were cold coming in here and all of a sudden - Boom! - everybody looks hot,'' Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
The Cardinals improved to 7-3 against the Reds this season, keeping the defending NL Central champions at arm's length. They moved to a half-game behind first-place Pittsburgh. Cincinnati stayed 5 1/2 games back.
Both teams were coming off tough weeks set up by a lack of offense.
The Cardinals lost four of five in Pittsburgh and seven straight overall, allowing the Pirates to take over the top spot. St. Louis managed a total of only 10 runs during the seven-game losing streak, which ended with a 13-0 victory in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
The Reds had trouble scoring runs on the West Coast while dropping five of their last six games there.
Which one would break out first in the weekend series?
The Cardinals. Emphatically.
They quickly got to Arroyo, who had trouble getting his pitches to go where he wanted. The Cardinals loaded the bases on a pair of hits and a walk with one out in the first, and Freese doubled off the wall in center for a 3-0 lead. Jon Jay followed with an RBI single on Arroyo's 24th pitch.
Just what the Cardinals needed to relax a little.
''That was big,'' Matheny said. ''It's what got us going there. I've always been a big believer in the team that scores early has a better chance to win the game.''
It never got much better for Arroyo, who has faced the Cardinals more than any other opponent in his career and had far more bad times than good. He fell to 8-16 in 37 career starts against St. Louis.
Curtis Partch relieved Arroyo in the fourth and walked the first three batters he faced, including Matt Holliday and Freese with the bases loaded. Jay's double made it 9-0.
Descalso hit a pair of solo shots for the first multihomer game of his career, and Craig had a two-run shot as St. Louis pulled away. The Cardinals hit only nine homers in July, including one after the All-Star break.
NOTES: Cardinals leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter went 0 for 6, extending his slump to 0 for 18. ... Reds 3B Todd Frazier went hitless for the seventh straight game. He's in an 0-for-24 slump, the worst of his career. ... RH reliever Jonathan Broxton is scheduled to make his second appearance of a rehab stint on Saturday. He's been on the DL since June 15 with a sore elbow. ... LH Tony Cingrani makes his first career start against the Cardinals on Saturday. Jake Westbrook goes for St. Louis. ... Sixteen couples were married on the field pregame by the man who wears the Gapper mascot costume.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjoekay