Cardinals want to make some hay against Reds

The St. Louis Cardinals can’t seem to find any traction in the National League Central race, unable to pull past the Milwaukee Brewers or Chicago Cubs or develop any consistency.

Maybe they can generate some this weekend in Cincinnati, the place where multiple teams have built momentum — and built up some wins — this season.

Especially the Cardinals.

St. Louis swept a four-game series April 12-15 at Great American Ball Park, then followed by sweeping the Reds again in three games at Busch Stadium the following weekend — making them 7-0 against Cincinnati this season.

Now, the Cardinals (33-27) were coming off two underwhelming losses to the last-place Miami Marlins before beating them 4-1 Thursday at Busch Stadium behind Miles Mikolas’ strong pitching — seven innings, three hits, one run — and Jose Martinez’s two-run homer.

To say the Cardinals needed to win was an understatement. They had lost eight of 14, and they still haven’t won more than two games in a row since taking five straight from May 1-6.

“Every win is big. We lost those games (to Miami), it’s just baseball,” Martinez said. “We came out to do our best, but it didn’t happen on the field. Our plan was to get some runs early (Thursday) and set the tone for the game and we did, and everything went well.”

For a change, everything went well for the last-place Reds on Thursday, too.

Down to their last strike against Colorado closer Wade Davis in the ninth inning, and coming off two straight losses to the Rockies, the Reds scored the tying run on Davis’ two-strike wild pitch. They went on to win 7-5 in the 13th on Jesse Winker’s two-run homer against Chris Rusin — only the fourth Reds victory in 12 games. They are 10-21 at home.

“We played hard — we played hard the last few nights, but we didn’t play good. (Thursday) we played good and played hard,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said.

Mikolas (7-1) was good from the start for St. Louis and, just as Martinez said the offense set the tone, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the starting pitcher did the same thing.

“Miles was very good, and it was huge for our club,” Matheny said. “We always talk about how the starting pitching sets the tone. We had a bad tone the last couple of days. Part of it (Thursday) was Miles and part of it was the offense getting something going.”

Now, the Cardinals hope right-hander Luke Weaver (3-5, 4.41 ERA) can give them a similar start Friday night when he matches up against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey (1-4, 5.79), who will make his sixth start with Cincinnati and his first against St. Louis since May 18, 2015. He then pitched eight shutout innings against the Cardinals and with the New York Mets.

Weaver has won only once in nine starts since beating the Reds 5-3 on April 13, when he gave up two runs in six innings. He has lost his last three decisions since beating San Diego 9-5 on May 11, but he’s 3-0 in four career games, including three starts, against the Reds. He also beat them in successive starts last season, on Sept. 14 and Sept. 20.

Harvey is 0-2 but has a 2.05 ERA in four career games against St. Louis, including a two-inning relief outing on April 24 while with the Mets. He has been roughed up a bit in his last two starts for the Reds, allowing eight earned runs in 10 1/3 innings.

Weaver has had success against most of the Reds’ hitters; Scooter Gennett is 3-for-8 (.375), but Jose Pereza is 1-for-8 (.125) and Joey Votto and Adam Duvall are 1-for-7 (.143). Marcell Ozuna is 9-for-24 (.375) with three RBIs against Harvey, but Matt Carpenter is 1-for-9 (.111).