CINCINNATI -- How things have changed this season in the Cardinals-Reds rivalry. St. Louis always seems to have the upper hand, but Cincinnati's 3-2 victory on Friday was its eighth out of 11 games between the two teams in 2017. The Reds have also taken five of the past six games and have outscored the Cardinals, 31-11, at Great American Ball Park.
"This is a good ballpark for everybody. It's not just them who is getting an advantage; we're all getting an advantage," Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong said. "So there's no excuse. For some reason, we're that one hit away. Once we get that one hit and we can get some confidence, I think we'll start rolling. We're trying to figure us out right now."
Over the past two seasons, Cardinals starter Mike Leake has been on the wrong end of all his outings vs. his former club. Leake gave up three earned runs and eight hits over six innings to drop to 0-5 with a 4.75 ERA against the Reds in 2016-17. St. Louis is 0-8 vs. the Reds when Leake starts.
A 1-1 tie in the fifth inning was snapped by two runs against Leake -- an RBI single by Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto's two-out RBI single. It gave Reds starter Asher Wojciechowski the victory after he pitched five innings with one earned run, three hits, one walk and five strikeouts.
"It was a great team game that we played today. We played good baseball today and got a good victory," Wojciechowski said.
The Cardinals kept the game tight, however, with an eighth-inning rally against reliever Michael Lorenzen. With two outs, Carson Kelly hit an RBI single that scored Tommy Pham to make it a one-run game. Lorenzen walked Wong to load the bases after he was initially down in an 0-2 count. Then the reliever was ahead, 0-2, on Randal Grichuk, but he ran up a full count before escaping with a called third strike on a breaking ball.
Raisel Iglesias worked the top of the ninth inning for his 19th save in 20 chances. The Reds have won four of their past five games.
"We were putting together some good at-bats, we just can't get that big hit," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "In games like this, that's usually the deciding factor."
Adding some sting to the third-place Cardinals' defeat was a lost opportunity to gain ground in the NL Central standings. A loss by the Cubs keeps them 4 1/2 games back in the division with a 53-56 record. St. Louis has played in five straight one-run games, losing three of them.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED No stopping Dah-Wink: In the first inning, Votto extended his hitting streak to nine games with a double to right field. Running from first base with his head down, Jesse Winker chugged past third-base coach Billy Hatcher as he put up a late stop sign. The rookie slid into the plate head-first with the game's first run.
"I missed that stop sign, for sure. That was on me," Winker said. "I didn't pick my head back up. Once I was getting to third, my head was down the whole way. I have to pick him up. Luckily it worked out."
Wong was convinced that with an accurate throw home, he would have gotten Winker at the plate.
"I made a good throw; I was just off a little bit," Wong said. "As soon as I let it go, I knew it was offline. I tried to make a play happen, and it didn't work out."
Cardinals' other missed chance: St. Louis had a shot at taking the lead in the seventh as the Reds employed three different relievers. Wong reached on a one-out single off of Drew Storen and pinch-hitter Jose Martinez walked against Wandy Peralta with two outs. Representing the go-ahead run, Jedd Gyorko pinch-hit against Michael Lorenzen but struck out to end the threat. Gyorko is 13-for-70 with 20 strikeouts in 20 games since the All-Star break.
"I think you have to trust your stuff in this game, and he trusts it. If he's going to get beat, it's going to be with hitters swinging the bat and taking advantage of mistakes. He seems to me to be a very confident young man who is making the most of another opportunity. He really has, he's done some really good things for this club. It sends a good message every time we roll him out there, and he attacks the strike zone." -- Reds manager Bryan Price, on Wojciechowski
"I think for the most part, the guys are trying to enjoy the game even though we're losing and not really putting it together the way we want to. I think guys are still trying to play the game hard. You can't fault us for anything like that." -- Leake
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Reds pitchers, who lead the Majors with 179 homers allowed, have not given up a home run in a season-high four consecutive games. The last time Cincinnati did not allow a homer in four games in a row was June 7-10, 2015, vs. the Padres and Phillies.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the top of the third inning, Greg Garcia opened with a drive to right field that looked to have hit the top of the fence and bounced back into play. Garcia ran to third base with a triple. At the urging of Matheny, there was a crew-chief review of the play to see if the ball had cleared the fence. Upon review, replay officials could not definitively say if the ball was touched by a fan beyond the wall -- which would be a home run. It was determined that the call stands.
In the fifth on Hamilton's RBI single, Tucker Barnhart tried to score a second run but was thrown out at the plate by Stephen Piscotty's throw and Kelly's tag in a very close play. The Reds challenged the call in two different ways. Upon review, it was confirmed that Kelly's foot and leg did not block Barnhart's path to the plate. The tag itself was ruled to stand since it could not be definitive in replays that Barnhart's foot touched the plate ahead of the tag.
The Cardinals extended the eighth inning with a successful challenge that overturned what would have been an inning-ending double play turned by left fielder Adam Duvall. But replay reviewed confirmed that Pham slid safely back into second before Duvall's relay throw. The Cards went on to score a two-out run that pulled them to within one.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: Having opted to hold onto Lance Lynn at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Cardinals will send the veteran right-hander to the mound for Saturday's 6:10 p.m. CT game against the Reds. Lynn wrapped up July with a 1.47 ERA in six starts. Catcher Yadier Molina and third baseman Jedd Gyorko are expected back in the starting lineup for the game.
Reds: When the series continues at 7:10 p.m. ET Saturday, Reds rookie Luis Castillo will make the start while coming off the best outings of his brief career. On Sunday vs. the Marlins, Castillo allowed one run and three hits over eight innings for a 6-4 victory.