ST. LOUIS - That St. Louis is 16-11 after 27 games is one thing.
According to Matt Carpenter, that it's in first place in the National League Central despite an inconsistent offense and a struggling bullpen should give division oppponents cause for concern.
"For us to win and not be clicking on all cylinders is a big deal," he said Wednesday after the Cardinals' 4-2 victory over Cincinnati. "Once we get going, it should be a fun summer."
Carpenter had some fun in the series finale, going 3 for 4 with two doubles and a tiebreaking RBI in St. Louis' three-run sixth inning. After scoring just six runs in their previous four games, the Cardinals produced 10 hits, including four straight in their decisive rally.
But the starting pitcher again played the starring role for St. Louis, which stayed a half-game ahead of Pittsburgh in the Central. Lance Lynn (5-0) won his fifth straight start and extended his winning streak to 10 games dating to Sept. 9.
Lynn scattered five hits in seven strong innings. He walked two, hit one and struck out five batters, including three whiffs of leadoff man Shin-soo Choo. Lynn and Trevor Rosenthal, who induced a popout from Choo to start the eighth, kept him off the bases for just the second time in 28 games.
Lynn, who's listed at 240 pounds in the media guide, shed nearly 40 pounds in the offseason after going 18-7 but averaging less than six innings per start in 2012. Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said Lynn also lost something else.
"He's always going to be intense, but we had a little talk with him this spring about staying in control," Matheny said. "When you're coming in the clubhouse, throwing coolers and punching things, you're losing control. He'd tend to lose it a bit on the mound and that affected him.
"So far, he's kept his intensity while staying in control. Today was another example of that."
Lynn only had a couple of difficult situations to handle. With runners at first and third in the second, he opted to walk light-hitting catcher Corky Miller and take his chances with Bailey, a .286 batter. The ploy worked as Lynn induced a groundout from Bailey.
"I knew who I wanted to pitch to," Lynn said. "I know (Bailey) can put a good swing on the ball, but that's what I wanted to do and it worked out."
In the sixth, after Brandon Phillips doubled Joey Votto home with one out to tie the score at 1, Lynn had consecutive strikeouts of Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier to quell the threat.
It was the 20th quality start in 27 games for the Cardinals, whose starters own a microscopic ERA of 2.12 that's easily the best in baseball.
"You just can't ask for much more out of those guys," Matheny said. "They've been as consistent as any group I've seen."
After reaching Bailey for just one run in five innings -- Carlos Beltran cracked a leadoff homer in the fourth -- St. Louis wore him down and knocked him out in the sixth. Allen Craig walked with one out and Yadier Molina singled, setting up Carpenter's broken-bat looper into right center that scored Craig.
Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso followed with crisp RBI singles, upping the lead to 4-1 and ending Bailey's day after 5 1/3 innings, nine hits and four runs. In his career, Bailey (1-3) is 3-9 against the Cardinals with an ERA approaching 6.00.
"Other than Craig's walk, I threw the ball well that inning," Bailey said of the sixth. "Molina hit a grounder through the hole and Carpenter shattered his bat in about five pieces. Man, that team is my Achilles' heel."
Phillips led off the ninth with a homer for the Reds (15-14), which fell to an absymal 3-10 this year on the road. But St. Louis closer Edward Mujica shrugged that off and retired the side for his sixth save in as many chances.
St. Louis grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Carlos Beltran lined a homer into the right-field seats on a meaty 1-1 fastball from Bailey.
NOTES: St. Louis first baseman Matt Adams will start a rehabilitation assignment Friday with Class AA Springfield of the Texas League and could be activated as soon as Tuesday, when the Cardinals open a two-game series with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Adams was hitting .542 with three homers in 24 at-bats when he went on the disabled list April 22 with a strained right oblique. ... Cardinals closer Jason Motte made 25 throws from 60 feet and 10 throws from 90 feet on Tuesday as he ramps up a rehab program with his injured right elbow. He reported no discomfort after the workout. ... Phillips finished April with 24 RBIs, tied for third in club history. Only Tony Perez (26 in 1970) and Vada Pinson (25 in 1962) had more.