CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Reds right-hander Mat Latos is developing into a big-game pitcher. Manager Dusty Baker trusts Latos to pitch deep in games, and Latos' teammates have rallied behind him. "I think he's a future Cy Young Award winner," said Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick.
Latos looked the part on Monday afternoon, pitching his fourth career complete game to lift the Reds to a 7-2 victory over the Cardinals.
Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto homered for Cincinnati in the opening game of a key four-game series against National League Central contenders.
Latos (14-5) gave up four hits and two earned runs. He walked one and struck out two in his first complete game this season.
"Sometimes things would upset him," said Baker of a younger Latos. "Now he's learned that the ball is in his hand. It's in his control. He wants the ball. We have to ask him, 'Have you had enough?' He wants to go deep in games."
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (15-9) was roughed up by the Reds for the second straight time. He allowed six earned runs on 10 hits in six innings on Monday, after giving up nine runs in just two innings in his previous start against them on Aug. 28.
"I have a lot of respect for Wainwright," Baker said. "He's normally not the guy you want to face two straight starts. It's a funny game."
In the first inning on Monday, Ludwick's RBI single put the Reds ahead 1-0. Ludwick, who's beginning to find his stroke since coming off the disabled list, added a double to the opposite field in the seventh.
"I'm feeling better and better," Ludwick said. "When you see me hitting the ball the other way like that, it's a positive sign."
Todd Frazier doubled leading off the second inning and scored the second run on Zack Cozart's single to center. Choo's two-run homer on a 1-0 pitch from Wainwright put the Reds ahead 4-0.
"His ability to execute when he needed to," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny of Wainwright's struggles against Cincinnati. "He's searching right now. He doesn't have the same feel he had earlier."
St. Louis scored twice in the third when Wainwright doubled and scored on a single by Matt Carpenter, who later scored on Matt Holliday's sacrifice fly, making the score 4-2. Holliday went 2-for-2 with one RBI.
Votto's solo homer on a 1-2 pitch from Wainwright in the fourth put Cincinnati ahead 6-2.
"The offense gave me six runs early," Latos said. "Getting that big lead took a little bit of pressure off. (St. Louis) can score a lot of runs in a hurry. But I didn't have to be to perfect. Over the last few innings I was just fastball, fastball, fastball. Just trying to get them to hit the pitch I wanted them to hit."
Cincinnati (77-61) defeated St. Louis for the second straight time, but just the fourth in 12 meetings this season.
Latos retired 10 straight in one stretch en route to his fourth straight win over the Cardinals.
"My emphasis was to keep it down in the zone, get them to roll over," said Latos, who matched his career-high with 14 victories. "Any time I can give the bullpen a break, I'm going to do it."
Cardinals left-hander Randy Choate walked Jay Bruce with the bases loaded in the eighth, making the score 7-2. Bruce went 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI.
St. Louis (79-58) lost for the fourth time in five games. The Cardinals and Reds are chasing the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates in a tight NL Central race.
"They've put some good swings on me," said a beleaguered Wainwright. "I've had some good games against them in the past. It's a head-scratcher, to be honest with you."
NOTES: Cardinals C Yadier Molina left the game after five innings with left wrist soreness. He is listed as day-to-day. "It's something he's had before, but we haven't heard much about it. It popped up today," said Matheny. ... Cardinals RF Carlos Beltran was not in the lineup for the second straight day due to a sore back. He was available off the bench. "That's how we've done it all year," Matheny said. "Instead of trying to push him through, we've tried to pay attention to how he feels." ... The Reds reinstated C Corky Miller from the 15-day disabled list, recalled from INF Neftali Soto from Triple-A Louisville, and selected the contract of OF Billy Hamilton from Louisville. Hamilton is the club's top-rated prospect. "They hinted around every now and then, and said 'Be ready,' " Hamilton said. "It'll take a game to feel real. My job is late in games to play defense, run the bases. I'll do whatever they need me to do." ... Baker said he'll ease the Reds' September call-ups into action with his club in a pennant race. "I love having young players, we just want them to be prepared," Baker said. "As a kid, you're always fearful you're going to cost the pennant that one game."