The St. Louis Cardinals stayed in flight formation against the Reds and Mike Leake in the first game of the three-game division showdown, taking the home town team down 9-2.
Leake and Cardinal ace Adam Wainright were matching each other pitch for pitch until the Cardinals, who came into the game with four players that had hitting streaks of seven or more games, bunched five of them together in the fourth inning.
Three run-scoring singles with two outs increased the Cardinals' batting average in two-out situations to .335.
Shin-Soo Choo battled Wainwright with a 12-pitch at bat before drawing only the seventh walk that the Cardinal starter has issued in 87 innings. Zack Cozart grounded into a double play on the second pitch to him.
The Cardinals mounted the rally in their next turn at bat.
Carlos Beltran singled to start the inning. Matt Holliday forced Beltran at secondbase. Craig then battled Leake in another 12-pitch at bat before dumping a single in front of Jay Bruce in rightfield.
"That at bat by Craig took a lot out of Leake," Dusty Baker said. "After that he started to get the ball up."
Leake admitted the battle with Craig was hard on him.
"He kept fouling it off and fouling it off," Leake said. "I tried to get him to hit the ball off the end of the bat. I could have probably dropped a slower pitch on him. He didn't hit it that hard but it found a hole."
After Craig, Leake struck out Yadier Molina with a tough sinker for the second out.
That is when the Cardinals started a barrage of two out run-scoring singles.
David Freese extended his hitting streak to 17 games with one of them. Jon Jay hit one. Pete Kozma connected on the third.
"I don't know what their secret is but if I did, I'd bottle it," Baker said.
The bullpen took over after Leake left the game an inning later.
The Cardinals scored four runs off Logan Ondrusek and one each off J.J. Hoover and Manny Parra.
The Reds scored two off a tiring Wainwright.
Jay Bruce singled in a run in the sixth. Choo doubled home a run in the seventh and final inning for Wainwright.
"You can't keep trading runs with them," Baker said. "Our bullpen has been working a lot lately. It is very discouraging to get your butt whipped two days in a row.
The Reds have not scored more than two runs off the Cardinals' pitchers in six straight games, even though they won one of them 2-0.
The Reds' pitchers have given up 16 or more hits for the second game in a row. Colorado had 20 hits in scoring 12 runs on Wednesday.
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