In the second game, Luis Castillo held the Cardinals to three runs and five hits over six innings and this time, for the first time in the series, the bullpen held it.
Raisel Iglesias, who blew a save and lost Game 2 Saturday night, extracted his revenge in Game 2 Sunday, striking out the side in the ninth to preserve the 5-3 victory.
The Reds were swept three games in Pittsburgh, won three of four games in Miami, then lost three of four in St. Louis for a 4-and-7 trip.
That put them at 12 1/2 games out of first place and a season-low nine games under .500, with chances of a .500 season melting faster than a Sno-cone in August.
FIRST GAME (St. Louis 4, Cincinnati 3)
It was deja vu all over again, only this time nobody can blame Raisel Iglesias.
Iglesias was still sitting in the bullpen when the Cardinals scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
It was Michael Lorenzen this time.
Tyler Mahle made his first start since mid-July when he went on the injured list. He had the Cardinals nibbling out of his right hand for the entire game.
He held the Cardinals to one run (unearned) and two hits through six innings and led, 3-1.
But when he hit Jose Martinez with a pitch with one out in the seventh, Reds manager David Bell was out of the dugout like Edwin Moses coming out of the starting blocks.
He immediately removed Mahle and replaced him with Robert Stephenson. Martinez stole second and scored on a two-out single by Harrison Bader.
The Reds still led, 3-2.
Amir Garrett pitched the eighth and a wild pickoff throw cost him a run and a tie game. He walked pinch-hitter Dexter Fowler then threw wildly to first base on a pickoff attempt. That put Fowler on second. He moved to third on Tommy Edman’s single
Michael Lorenzen replaced Garrett and the tying run scored on a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Paul DeJong.
Bell sent Lorenzen back out for the ninth, but the result as the same as it has been lately. He walked Jose Martinez on a full count and Yadier Molina doubled to center, putting runners on third and second with no outs.
Bell employed a five-man infield, two-man outfield and it didn’t matter. Harrison Bader hit one over outfielder Nick Senzel’s head and it was over.
St. Louis scored first in the second inning and it was Mahle’s fault. He gave up a two-out single to Yadier Molina, wild pitched him to second and then dropped a toss from Joey Votto at the first base bag on a grounder that would have been the third out. Instead, Molina scored, a run that turned out to be huge.
The Reds scored all three runs in one bunch, then eight innings of nothing. They scored three in the third on Joey Votto’s sacrifice fly and a two-run home run by Eugenio Suarez.
It was Suarez’s 40th home run, the most ever hit by a Reds third baseman. It gave the Reds a 3-1 lead, but it was wasted.
Wasted even more was Mahle’s amazing effort, just as an amazing effort by Sonny Gray was wasted on Saturday.
Mahle gave up two runs (one earned), two hits, did not walk anybody and struck out five. Bell, though, thought he had enough after 90 pitches and turned to a bullpen that carries a can of kerosene out of the bullpen with it.
SECOND GAME (Cincinnati 5, St. Louis 3)
Phillip Ervin was not in the original lineup, but manager David Bell decided to give Aristides Aquino his first day off since his early-August call-up.
It was chance for Ervin to show he can hit right handed pitchers. Did he? Oh, yeah.
Ervin’s two-out single in the second inning gave the Reds a 1-0 lead. He doubled with two outs in the fourth, but didn’t score. In the sixth he concluded a three-hit night with a next-county home run to give the Reds a 5-3 lead.
The Reds led at the time, 2-0. But he walked Harrison Bader and catcher Andrew Knizner, called up Sunday from Triple-A Memphis and owner of a .190 batting average, torched one over the left field fence and it was 2-2.
Castillo issued another walk and Kolten Wong tripled for a 3-2 St. Louis lead.
Castillo was in warm water in the fourth when he gave up back-to-back singles to Rangel Ravelo and Hamilton Bader with no outs. Castillo coaxed a double play out of Knizner and an inning-ending ground ball from pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon.
Nick Senzel has been experimenting with a more upright stance and it isn’t working. In the fifth inning, back to his old slight-crouch stance, drilled a home run leading off the fifth to tie it, 3-3.
The Reds filled the bases with one out after Senzel’s home run and scored one on Jose Iglesias’ fielder’s choice ground ball.
Ervin hit his fifth-inning home run to conclude the scoring. Castillo needed 109 pitches to get through six innings, giving up the three-run inning and five hits. He walked three, all in the third inning, and struck out eight.
Now it was bullpen time, and hold their breath time for the Reds. Kevin Gausman pitched two scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out three.
Iglesias came on in the ninth and went to 3-and-0 on pinch-hitter Tommy Edman, then struck him out. He also struck out Harrison Bader and Andrew Knizner to end it.
St. Louis manager Mike Shildt did Castillo and the Reds a favor by not starting regulars Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman, Marcell Ozuna and Yadier Molina.
And the Reds thank him very much.
On the down side, third baseman Eugenio Suarez was hit on the hand by a pitch and left the second game. He will be evaluated Monday when the swelling subsides.