ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nick Senzel and Aristides Aquino hit solo home runs and the Cincinnati Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Thursday night to snap a six-game losing streak in the opener of a five-game series.
The loss cut the Cardinals’ lead in the National League Central to 7 1/2 games over the idle Milwaukee Brewers.
“We’ll put it together,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “It’s been a stretch where there’s no offense certain days. We just came up short tonight. We ran out of time there. We’re not overly concerned.”
St. Louis made it interesting in the ninth against rookie reliever Alexis Diaz, loading the bases with one out on two singles and walk before pulling within a run on a sacrifice fly by Albert Pujols, giving him 123 in his career and tying him with Hall of Famer Robin Yount for third most in MLB history since 1954.
Diaz then got pinch-hitter Cory Dickerson to ground out to end the game and earn his seventh save.
“That’s what this game is all about,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said. “It’s never easy. It was a little stressful, but that’s what makes the game great. Diaz did a great job.”
Aquino and Spencer Steer each had two hits for the Reds.
Pujols finished 0 for 3 and remained at 697 career home runs. He is fourth on the all-time list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).
Miles Mikolas (11-12) had allowed four or more runs in three of his past four starts before giving up three runs in six innings against the Reds. He allowed six hits and three walks in his 30th start of the season.
“I didn’t have great stuff but I got through,” Mikolas said. “I tried to work through it the best I could. I can get better in my next start. I feel great. I’m in the best shape of my life.”
Cincinnati starter Chase Anderson (1-3) gave up one hit in five innings. He struck out three and waked two.
“He’s finding ways to get better,” Bell said. “He’s making improvements. I love having him.”
Anderson, signed to a minor league contract on Aug 27, faced the Cardinals twice last month and gave up eight runs (seven earned) and five hits and two walks over 2 1/3 innings.
“Coming off a sweep is tough so my goal was to set the tone early,” Anderson said. “We got a run early. I’m very pleased with my pitches. Hats off to the defense. It was a great team win.”
Senzel got the Reds on the scoreboard with his two-out homer in the second, and Jake Fraley’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0 in the third.
Paul Goldschmidt’s RBI double in the bottom of the third pulled the Cardinals to 2-1. Aquino’s two-out homer in the sixth pushed the Reds’ lead back to two. It was his ninth of the season but his fifth this month.
“Baseball’s tough,” Mikolas said. “You can have a couple of good starts and a couple of bad starts. The ball can bounce this way or that way.”
Cardinals right fielder Lars Nootbar saved a run in the eighth as he caught a line drive and fired a strike home to double up pinch-runner Stuart Fairchild to end the inning. It was his seventh outfield assist.
Four Reds pitchers held the Cardinals to just three hits.