ST. LOUIS -- It came with controversy, but the Cardinals, behind a walk-off RBI double by Yadier Molina, overcame their own bullpen blip to grab a critical 4-3 victory over the Reds at Busch Stadium on Thursday.
The win put pressure on the Giants, who defeated the Rockies late on Thursday to keep St. Louis a game back of the second National League Wild Card spot. The Wild Card-leading Mets, idle on Thursday, maintain the top spot with three days remaining in the regular season.
"Pure excitement. Pure joy," Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty said of the ending. "That's a huge hit from a legendary player. Just the way the crowd reacted, it was just something that was playful, and it was cool to have that moment."
Molina stepped to the plate with two out and the potential winning run on first and ripped a ball to left field. It bounced off the warning track and hit a panel of signage beyond the wall before caroming back into play. A throw from left fielder Adam Duvall was too late to get Carpenter, who slid into home to initiate the celebration.
As the Cardinals carried that celebration into the dugout, the Reds remained on the field wanting to challenge that the ball should have been ruled dead -- and Molina, therefore, awarded a ground-rule double -- when it hit the signage. Reds manager Bryan Price waited too long before requesting a review, and the game officially ended.
"In this situation, Bryan Price did not come up on the top step," crew chief Bill Miller told a pool reporter after the game. "We stayed there. I waited for my partners to come off the field. I looked into the dugout, the Cincinnati dugout, and Bryan Price made no eye contact with me whatsoever, and then after 30 seconds he finally realized, somebody must have told him what had happened, and we were walking off the field."
The Reds had climbed back into the game by scoring runs in the eighth and ninth innings. Duvall's RBI single drove in one before an infield single by Scott Schebler in the ninth tied the score with two outs. In the bottom half of the ninth, Carpenter drew a one-out walk to spark the Cardinals' final rally.
Leaning on Alex Reyes to improve their position in the Wild Card standings, the Cardinals watched the rookie right-hander rise to the occasion yet again. With solo homers from Jedd Gyorko and Molina backing him, Reyes weaved through a few trouble spots to limit the Reds to one run over six innings.
This latest quality start by Reyes leaves him with a 1.57 ERA in his first 12 career games. Whether his season ended with Thursday's performance will be dependent upon whether the Cardinals can add any October games to their schedule.
"He was so good, again, in a big situation," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "To see a kid with just a few starts under his belt to be able to stand up there and make great pitches when he has to and the heat is on is very impressive."
The Cardinals went hitless with runners in scoring position for a second straight night but found production elsewhere. Gyorko's team-leading 28th homer tied the score in the second, and Molina's blast padded a lead three innings later. In between, the Cardinals manufactured a run to take the lead against Reds starter Dan Straily, who threw 89 pitches over six innings.
"You come into this game and yeah, our season is over from the standings standpoint. But we're fighting so hard to win every ballgame still, no matter what," Straily said. "It's frustrating to give up those homers. At the end of the day, I gave it everything I had tonight, and I kept us in the ballgame for a good amount of time."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Leave 'em loaded: Matheny gave his rookie right-hander the opportunity to pitch himself out of a mess in the sixth inning, and Reyes responded in a big way. After the Reds used a pair of singles and a two-out walk to load the bases, Reyes went after Tucker Barnhart, who'd delivered an RBI hit in the second and was hitting .356 with runners in scoring position going into the night. Reyes induced a groundout to first to close both the threat and his 99-pitch outing.
"I just kind of take a deep breath and remember about executing pitches," Reyes said. "That's all it comes down to, and remembering where it needs to be."
Strong season for Straily: With three earned runs and six hits over six innings, with two walks and seven strikeouts, Straily fell short of earning his 15th victory but still notched his team-leading 20th quality start. A surprise success story for Cincinnati after being a waiver claim at the end of Spring Training, Straily finished 14-9 with a 3.76 ERA. All 80 of the runs he allowed in a team-high 191 1/3 innings were earned, and the Reds have a 20-11 record in the games he started. Among his blemishes are the NL-leading 31 homers he gave up, but 24 of them were solo shots -- including the long balls on Thursday by Gyorko and Molina.
"Looking back on it, I'm sure I will have more time to reflect later this weekend and soak it all in. But it's been a good season," Straily said. "It's been a big season of growth for me, a big season of learning who I am as a pitcher and sticking to who I am as a pitcher and coming through and finishing a season, essentially. It was a career high in innings for me. It's been a lot of positives for me."
A costly misread: Cardinals center fielder Randal Grichuk gave the Reds an opening they then seized to tie the score in the ninth when he misread Ramon Cabrera's fly ball to open the frame. After breaking in a few steps, Grichuk couldn't recover in time, and Cabrera's hit sailed over his glove for a double. A groundout moved Cabrera to third before pinch-hitter Schebler hit a squibbler off closer Seung Hwan Oh that the Cardinals had no shot at fielding for an out.
"That happens to all of us out there, just bad timing for it to happen in that inning," Piscotty said. "As an outfielder I can feel his pain. I can understand what happened. The hitter was out in front, and I can totally understand what he saw."
Taking one on the chin:Joey Votto delivered his third hit of the night in the top of the eighth inning with a lofted double to left field that one-hopped in front of Tommy Pham. But as Votto hustled and slid into second base, he was struck in the face by Pham's throw. It left him with a bloodied chin that forced him out of the game; he would need seven stitches. Pinch-runner Tyler Holt scored and made it a one-run game on Duvall's single. With a 3-for-4 game, Votto is batting .324 for the season and .410 since the All-Star break.
"I feel fine," Votto said after the game, his chin bandaged. More >
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According to Statcast™ projections, Gyorko's homer in the second inning traveled 456 feet after leaving his bat at 108 mph. That makes it the longest home run hit by a Cardinals player at Busch Stadium in the Statcast™ era and the farthest Gyorko's hit during that span anywhere.
On a ground ball to third base, Diaz was ruled safe at first base because umpire Tony Randazzo thought he saw Ivan De Jesus' foot came off the bag. The Reds challenged the call, and the safe call was overturned, after a review that showed De Jesus was touching the bag when the ball reached his glove.
WHAT'S NEXT Reds: The final series of the season will bring the Reds home to play the Cubs, beginning with Friday's 7:10 p.m. ET opener. Reliever Josh Smith will make his second start of the season, once again vs. Chicago. He allowed one run over three innings the last time, at Wrigley Field.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will open their final series of the regular season with a 7:15 p.m. CT game against the Pirates on Friday. Carlos Martinez, 15-9 on the season, has a 2.41 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh this year.