EditorsNote: Updates wildcard standings in 5th graph
Cardinals restore playoff hopes with sweep of Reds
CINCINNATI — After being swept by the Chicago Cubs in a three-game series at Wrigley Field over the weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals arrived in Cincinnati with their postseason hopes on the brink.
Three days later, the Cardinals’ confidence and playoff aspirations are restored.
Dexter Fowler doubled twice and drove in two runs, and Yadier Molina also had two RBIs, helping the Cardinals complete a three-game sweep with an 8-5 victory against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
St. Louis (80-72) trails the first-place Cubs by five games in the National League Central after Chicago’s 5-3 victory in 10 innings over the second-place Brewers in Milwaukee on Thursday.
The Cardinals was 1.5 games behind the Rockies for the second NL wild-card spot after 3-0 loss to San Diego late Thursday.
“Huge games, every single one of them,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We had a great opportunity to go out and play great ball. Coming off a tough weekend, the guys did a really good job of clearing their minds.”
Molina’s two RBIs gave him 82 on the season, a single-season career high.
“I’m not thinking about that,” Molina said. “Just trying to help my team win every game. We didn’t play good baseball in Chicago. Our focus here was to take it game by game. Everybody took good at-bats.”
The top five batters in the Cardinals’ starting lineup went 10-for-19 with three doubles and five RBIs on Thursday night.
“It’s dangerous up there,” Matheny said of the top of the batting order. “It stretches our lineup, really all the way down to the sixth spot. Guys were grinding at-bats all the way through.”
Right-hander Carlos Martinez (12-11) got the win on his 26th birthday. He allowed four runs on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings with a walk and six strikeouts.
Scott Schebler homered twice for Cincinnati (66-87), which has lost three straight since sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend.
It was a one-run game in the seventh when Molina doubled to center and Jose Martinez scored from first. Molina ultimately came home on a groundout to give the Cardinals a 6-3 lead.
Schebler hit a 432-foot solo home run to right in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Cardinals reliever Tyler Lyons pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings with two walks and four strikeouts. Zach Duke allowed two hits in the ninth inning, including Schebler’s 29th homer.
Lyons threw 38 pitches and worked out of a jam in the eighth.
“Amazing effort by Tyler Lyons, to work that deep into his pitch count,” Matheny said. “His breaking ball was plus.”
Fowler continued his hot hitting with a two-out double in the first inning, then scored on Martinez’s single that put St. Louis ahead 1-0.
Cincinnati tied the score 1-1 in the second when Jesse Winker doubled and later scored from third on a wild pitch.
Fowler doubled in two more runs off Reds starter Homer Bailey in the third to put the Cardinals ahead 3-1. Molina’s sacrifice fly made it 4-1.
“It’s still a toss-up with my stuff when I go out there,” said Bailey, who came back in June after a couple injury-riddled seasons. “I have one start left. I hope to finish strong.”
Cincinnati cut the deficit to 4-3 in the fourth when Phillip Ervin hit a laser into the first row in left field for a two-run home run, his third homer of the season.
Bailey allowed four runs on seven hits in four innings. He was removed for a pinch hitter for in the fourth with the tying run at second.
“It was tough to take Homer out,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He had pitches left on the table. In that situation, I had to take a shot.
“He got the first two outs on three pitches. It was labor intensive after that. I don’t think he threw the ball bad.”
NOTES: The Reds announced they will extend netting to the end of each dugout at Great American Ball Park by Opening Day 2018, in response to a child being seriously injured by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium in New York on Wednesday night. ... Cardinals INF Breyvic Valera was recalled from Triple-A Memphis for his second stint with the club this season. ... Reds RF Scott Schebler batted leadoff for the first time this season and the seventh time in his career. He recorded his third career multi-home run game, his second of the season.