That drama came on the heels of a ninth inning the Redbirds entered with a 7-5 advantage. Reds shortstop Jerry Hairston Jr. led off the bottom of the frame with a solo shot off Ryan Franklin, and Micah Owings then added a pinch-hit homer of his own to erase the two-run lead.
Franklin was attempting to notch his 10th save in 10 chances.
"I made two mistakes pretty much, and in this ballpark you can't make too many mistakes," Franklin said.
"I was focused, but I didn't think I was going to have zeros the whole year. It happens."
"It was heck of a piece of work for us," La Russa said. "They kept coming back, but we hung in there and showed a lot of guts on our side. They are hot right now, and that's not an easy club to play."
Reds third baseman Adam Rosales opened up the bottom of the fourth with his first career home run to knot the score at 4 -- completing the feat with one of the fastest home run trots recorded. Uncertain whether his line shot would clear the wall in left, Rosales was in full sprint rounding first, and when the ball found the seats, he continued his jubilant gallop all the way home.
Albert Pujols was hitless in the series when he came up soon after in the fifth. That funk ended on his ensuing solo blast to center, which broke the tie and put the Cardinals ahead by a run.
It was Pujols' 14th career home run at Great American Ballpark, placing him in a second-place tie with Jason Bay for most round-trippers by a visitor. Houston's Lance Berkman leads with 20.
Until Friday, Pujols had reached base in all 28 games he had played in. His bat again stayed silent Saturday, but it wouldn't be put to rest for the entire series. The last time he was held hitless in a series came in August against the Phillies. His longest career drought was an 0-for-17 period he suffered all the way back in July 2001.
Pujols also added his fifth stolen base of the year in the seventh. He eventually came around to score what seemed to be an insurance run on Chris Duncan's laser-shot single to make it 6-4 in the Cards' favor.
Skip Schumaker started things off by knocking a leadoff double down the left-field line just out of the reach of a diving Laynce Nix on the game's first pitch. Rasmus followed with a bunt that pitcher Edison Volquez erroneously threw past first basemen Ramon Hernandez, allowing Rasmus to advance to second as Schumaker trotted home to plate the game's first run.
Neither starter was particularly sharp. Although Volquez struck out eight, he gave up seven runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. Adam Wainwright worked through six frames and watched four runs cross the plate in the process of giving up seven hits.
"I was encouraged by how he competed and the life in his arm -- he made a couple of mistakes, but he also made some great pitches," La Russa said.
"It's not a question of arm strength or stuff -- the ball just isn't sinking the way it normally does, and I'm throwing fly balls," Wainwright said. "It's just a matter of arm slot. So now that we recognize the problem, I should be able to correct it."
The Cards have a much-needed off-day Monday after going through eight pitchers before Perez earned his first save of the season.