The Reds had no problem admitting the Cardinals were the best team in baseball before this series began.
Brandon Phillips said it. Dusty Baker did, too. Joey Votto said he respects no team in baseball more than the Cardinals.
On record alone, they had no choice but to give St. Louis the credit it deserves, even if they were also thinking they were just as good as the Cardinals, something they hoped to show in the first series of the season against the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park.
A 9-2 butt-whipping by the Cardinals in the first game Friday proved those words all too correct. St. Louis (40-21) looked as good as its record and made the Reds (36-25) look a lot worse than theirs.
It was the second straight lopsided loss at home for the Reds, who fell 12-4 to the Rockies on Wednesday.
“It’s very discouraging to get your butt kicked a couple nights in a row,” Baker said. “That’s enough.”
St. Louis now leads the Reds and Pirates (36-25) by four games. The Cardinals are 5-2 against the Reds and haven’t allowed the Reds to score more than two runs in the last six games.
In the last two games, Reds pitchers gave up 36 hits and 21 runs. That’s easily the worst two-game stretch of the season for the staff.
The Reds have lost three in a row at home for the first time in 2013, something that has to eat at Votto, who said before Friday’s game, “It’s important to go out there every day with the mindset that you’re facing the best in the world and, at any point, someone can embarrass you in front of your home fans. That’s who we play for. That’s who we entertain. We certainly want to make them happy.”
The Cardinals got to Reds starter Mike Leake with three runs in the fourth. A two-out RBI single by David Freese brought in the first run, and the next two batters, John Jay and Pete Kozma, also knocked in runs with singles.
Leake left after five, having given up six hits and those three runs. It was only the second time this season in 12 starts he didn’t last past the fifth.
Logan Ondrusek took over in the sixth and gave up four runs on four hits, including three doubles as the Cardinals stretched their lead to 7-0.
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (9-3) didn’t give up a run until the sixth. He left after seven innings, having allowed two runs on seven hits.
“He mixes his pitches up so well,” Reds third baseman Todd Frazier said. “I think his curveball is probably his best pitch. That thing starts off as a fastball and kind of rides like a wave and just drops. Even if you’re able to see it out of his hand, it still drops out of the sky. He never hangs it. At least I haven’t seen it yet.”
Cardinals at Reds, 7:15 p.m., FOX, 700, 1410