Latos, Reds slow down Cardinals

Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- Reds right-hander Mat Latos is among few pitchers who've managed to tame hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. The stakes were a bit higher on Saturday night along the banks of the Ohio River, with Cincinnati having lost its past four series against rival St. Louis and in danger of falling further behind in the NL Central standings.
But, Latos helped put a stop to that with seven strong innings to remain unbeaten and Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco homered, lifting the Reds to a 4-2 victory over first-place St. Louis on Saturday night.
"I felt great," Latos said. "That's a great lineup over there. I just made adjustments, and kept the ball down. They like to ambush you."
The Cardinals (40-22) now lead the N.L. Central by three games over both the Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Latos (6-0) allowed two runs and eight hits and lowered his career ERA to 3.02 at Great American, the lowest among pitchers with at least 10 starts there.
"He doesn't let the ballpark affect him," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "You just pitch your game."
Derrick Robinson, batting second for the first time this season, doubled twice for Cincinnati (37-25), which ended a three-game losing streak to St. Louis.
"I didn't put too much pressure on myself," said Robinson of batting second. "I just tried to get on base for these guys."
Robinson doubled leading off the sixth and scored on Joey Votto's double to give the Reds a 3-2 lead.
Cincinnati, which hadn't scored more than two runs in its past six games against St. Louis, added an important run on Mesoraco's single with the bases loaded off Seth Maness to make the score 4-2.
"To come through in that situation was a big moment for me," Mesoraco said.
St. Louis starter Tyler Lyons (2-2) allowed four earned runs for the second straight game.
Latos got plenty of defensive help.
In the sixth, Shin-Soo Choo made a running catch of Yadier Molina's drive to the wall in center and Bruce made a leaping grab of David Freese's fly ball just shy of the wall in right. An inning later, Zack Cozart threw out Shane Robinson from deep short and Votto made a behind-the-back flip that Latos barehanded to retire Matt Carpenter at first.
"Our guys expect to make those kind of plays," Mesoraco said.
The Reds had the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh but failed to pad their lead. The missed opportunities made for a pressure-packed ninth inning.
"You've got to add on when you can," Baker said. "You keep putting pressure on the pitching staff. They need a breather ... give me a breather, everyone a breather, the whole town."
The Cardinals opened a 1-0 lead in the second when Molina doubled leading off the inning, advanced to third on a fly ball and scored on a groundout.
Bruce's homer tied the score 1-1 in the bottom of the inning.
In the third, Allen Craig extended his hitting streak to 12 games with an infield single, driving home Carlos Beltran from third to put the Cardinals ahead 2-1. That capped the scoring for St. Louis.
"Every time we face Latos he seems different," Carlo Beltran said. "He mixes it up pretty good. He kept me off balance. When a pitcher can do that most of the time he is going to be successful."
Lyons was efficient through four innings, throwing just 41 pitches. But Mesoraco's opposite-field home run tied the score 2-2 in the fifth.
"It was a fastball out over the plate," Mesoraco said. "I just tried to go with it that way."
Saturday's game ended in a bit of controversy.
In the ninth, Pete Kozma doubled with one out against Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, who then hit Carpenter with a pitch to bring the go-ahead run to the plate with two outs.
Beltran then grounded to third baseman Todd Frazier whose throw appeared to pull Votto off the first-base bag. But first base umpire Phil Cuzzi called Beltran out.
Chapman earned his 16th save.
"I saw it from the dugout," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "He was off the bag. I'm surprised the second base umpire didn't see it. We certainly should have had another batter."
NOTES: Freese extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a fourth-inning single and Carpenter extended his streak to 17 with a single in the first. ... Cincinnati optioned RHP Logan Ondrusek to Triple-A Louisville and recalled RHP Curtis Partch from Triple-A. Ondrusek allowed four earned runs and four hits in one inning during Friday's 9-2 loss to St. Louis. ... Beltran was in the starting lineup after leaving Friday's game in the sixth inning with a sore quadriceps.

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