Created on Saturday, 24 May 2014 Written by JOE KAY, AP Baseball Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals had plenty of chances to help Shelby Miller keep his streak intact. They came up empty and let one bad pitch end it.
Todd Frazier hit a three-run homer off Miller, who had won his last six decisions, and Devin Mesoraco added a solo shot as the Cincinnati Reds beat St. Louis 5-3 on Friday night and tightened the top of the NL Central.
The Reds moved within three games of the second-place Cardinals, who have won seven of their last nine games while staying right behind the division-leading Brewers.
Cincinnati is 3-4 against St. Louis this season and trying to end a longstanding trend this weekend. The Reds have lost nine of their last 10 series against the Cardinals.
Miller (6-3) lost his first two starts before winning six straight decisions, the best such streak of his career. He allowed five runs in five innings, including Frazier's ninth homer in the third inning off a pitch that was near the belt — not where he intended it to go.
"It was supposed to be down and away," Miller said. "It wasn't down enough. It ran back over the plate.
"Wish I could take it back."
Miller had trouble keeping his fastball down all night, which is a big problem at homer-friendly Great American Ball Park.
"My fastball for the majority of the game was up in the (strike) zone," Miller said. "I got a lot of foul balls.
"This is not a good park to leave the ball up, obviously."
Homer Bailey (4-3) escaped numerous threats during his six innings. Aroldis Chapman gave up a hit in the ninth while getting his fourth save in five chances, with his fastball topping out at 102 mph.
The Cardinals have had problems hitting with runners in scoring position all season. They wasted numerous chances again.
"We had them on the ropes a couple of times," manager Mike Matheny said. "We were looking for that big hit."
Bailey was coming off his worst start of the season. He lasted only 3 2-3 innings and gave up a season-high six runs during a 12-1 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday. The right-hander is only 6-10 career against St. Louis, by far his most losses against any team. He gave up eight hits and three runs, including Allen Craig's two-run single in the fourth.
Jhonny Peralta drove in another by hitting into a fielder's choice in the sixth. Bailey avoided further damage by picking Peralta off second base to end the inning with pinch-hitter Jon Jay batting.
"That one hurt," Matheny said. "We bring in a pinch-hitter there trying to set something going. In Jhonny's defense, he knew he was going to have to get a good jump. But that changes things dramatically."
The Reds had right fielder Jay Bruce back in the starting lineup. He hadn't played since surgery on May 5 to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. Cincinnati is still missing first baseman Joey Votto, on the disabled list with a strained muscle above his left knee.
Bruce doubled and scored on Brayan Pena's sacrifice fly in the fourth inning for a 4-2 lead. Bruce also struck out twice and grounded out with two runners aboard to end the seventh.
Pena played first base and made a saving defensive play to open the eighth. He dived to the line to get Matt Holliday's leadoff grounder and, while still on his chest, flipped the ball to Jonathan Broxton covering the base to get the out.
Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton walked, reached on a fielder's choice and stole a pair of bases without drawing a throw on either one, giving him 18 this season.
NOTES: A pair of lefties will start the second game of the series. Jaime Garcia is 9-2 career against the Reds, his most wins against any team. He'll face Tony Cingrani (2-3). ... The Cardinals sold the contract of OF Joey Butler to the Orix Buffaloes in Japan. The Cardinals had outright release waivers on Butler, who was at Triple-A Memphis. ... The Reds revamped their bench for the series, calling up OF Donald Lutz from Triple-A Louisville and sending INF Neftali Soto back down. ... RHP Mat Latos is expected to begin a rehab stint on Sunday with Louisville. He hasn't pitched this season because of torn knee cartilage and a strained right forearm.