Cards continue Central Division ascent

The St. Louis Cardinals will be sorry to see the calendar page change.

The Cardinals completed a major league-best 22-6 August with a 12-5 victory over the visiting Reds on Friday night. The only time the Cardinals have had a better August was in 1944 (23-4) and that team won the World Series.

St. Louis has posted the most wins in the majors since the All-Star break (28) and remains atop the National League wild-card standings. The Cardinals trail the Chicago Cubs by 3 1/2 games in the National League Central Division.

Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong homered for St. Louis Friday night and rookie Austin Gomber improved to 5-0 after giving up two runs on 10 hits in seven innings.

Gomber allowed two runs on four straight singles in the first inning before settling in.

“To kind of lay an egg in the first inning – I feel like I let them hit me in in the face,” Gomber told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I’ve always been taught you come out swinging and don’t be the first one to get hit in the face.”

He got the runs back with a two-run double as part of a four-run St. Louis second.

Reds starter Homer Bailey’s struggles continued. He allowed seven runs — three earned — in five innings while falling to 1-13 with a 6.13 ERA on the season while surrendering his 22nd and 23rd home runs. The Reds have lost 18 of his 19 starts.

“He’s come back from injury,” Reds manager Jim Riggleman told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He’s getting closer and closer to what he can be. As he goes through it, he’s not getting away with anything. Hitters are all over his stuff.

“He’s had a combination of back luck and hitters hitting his mistakes.”

Right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon (0-0, 2.08, one save) will be recalled from Triple-A Memphis to start Saturday’s game for the Cardinals. In his last start, on Aug. 21 against the Dodgers, he allowed a run on five hits over four innings in a St. Louis win.

He burst into the majors on July 23 with seven no-hit innings against the Reds before being lifted after throwing 116 pitches.

Right-hander Luis Castillo (7-11, 5.07) starts for Cincinnati. He’s struggled in August, going 1-3 with a 5.57 ERA. In his last start, he allowed five runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Cubs. It was his shortest outing since April 27.

“They were on him pretty good,” Riggleman told the Enquirer after the game. “I just didn’t feel like it was any use to waste ammo having him just throw pitches for the sake of throwing pitches. It just wasn’t working today.”

Castillo has not faced the Cardinals this season and is 0-3 with a 4.55 ERA in five starts versus them in his career.

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said injured outfielder Marcell Ozuna (shoulder) likely will come off the disabled list on Saturday.

“As to what his role would be, I’m not sure exactly,” Shildt told the Post-Dispatch, “but he will be activated in all likelihood (Saturday).