The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals emerged from the All-Star break with four wins in their last five games, a key player ready to return and a feeling that things were starting to fall into place after a first half marred by injuries.
The Cardinals got swept by the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday night, losing 4-2 on Scott Rolen’s bases-loaded single in the eighth inning. St. Louis played three close games, and lost all three.
“We have our moments, but it’s just doing it on a consistent basis,” said Jake Westbrook, who let it get away in the eighth.
The Reds’ sixth straight win matched their longest streak of the season, moved them a season-high 12 games over .500, and bumped them a game ahead of Pittsburgh for the division lead. St. Louis fell 4 games back.
Rolen’s two-out single off Mitchell Boggs snapped a 2-all tie. It was the second straight day that a former Cardinal beat St. Louis. Ryan Ludwick hit a game-ending homer in the 10th for a 3-2 win on Saturday.
Westbrook (7-8) set up the winning rally. He walked Joey Votto with one out, threw a wild pitch and hit Brandon Phillips on the arm, ending his outing.
“I hadn’t walked a guy all night, and I walked him,” Westbrook said. “Then I hit Phillips, which ultimately cost us the game.”
Homer Bailey (8-6) went eight innings during a fill-in start for Johnny Cueto, sidelined by a blister. Bailey gave up two runs — one earned — and nine hits while winning his third straight start.
With the 39,280 fans on their feet chanting “sweep,” Aroldis Chapman fanned the side in the ninth for his 13th save in 17 chances. The hard-throwing lefty pitched in all three games of the series — only the second time he’s gone three days in a row during his career.
The other time was in 2010, when he helped the Reds on their push to the NL Central title.
It was a sadly familiar outcome for St. Louis, which leads the NL in batting average, hits and runs, but couldn’t get a game-breaking hit during the series. The Cardinals stranded 30 runners in the three games.
They got the first two runners aboard in the eighth, but Bailey pitched out of it. Then, Rolen provided the game winner.
“They got the big hit,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We had a similar situation in the eighth. They ended up making it happen and we didn’t.”
Bailey was scheduled to start Tuesday, but got pushed up two days after Cueto developed a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand during a bullpen throwing session. It was a break for the Cardinals — Cueto leads the Reds with 10 wins and is third in the NL with a 2.39 ERA.
Votto singled and had an RBI double, his first hits of the series. Votto hasn’t gone more than two games without a hit this season.
Yadier Molina had a single, a run-scoring double and his second homer of the series, getting loudly booed as he rounded the bases in the sixth after tying it at 2-all. Molina has been booed during every at-bat since his fight with Phillips in 2010 at Great American Ball Park.
The solo shot made it 68 straight games with a homer at the ballpark, the longest streak since there were 80 consecutive games with a homer at Coors Field in 2002-03.
Matt Holliday had a pair of hits and extended his hitting streak to 14 games, the longest by a Cardinal this season.
Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman made his first start since tearing cartilage in his right knee on May 19. He reached on first baseman Votto’s error in the first inning, then came all the way around to score standing up on Molina’s double to the gap in left-center.
Berkman slowed to a walk once he crossed the plate and got teased by teammates when he reached the dugout after his first-to-home dash.
Molina undercut the rally by getting caught trying to advance to third base on a pickoff throw.
NOTES: The Reds lead the season series 5-4. … The Reds sold out two of the three games, giving them eight this season. … The Cardinals go to Milwaukee for a three-game series. The Reds continue a 10-game homestand with the first of four games against Arizona. … The Reds aren’t sure whether Cueto will be able to start on Tuesday against Arizona. They’ll see how his finger is healing before making contingency plans. … C Devin Mesoraco extended his hitting streak to a career-best six games.