They lost, but they scratched and clawed for 12 innings before losing in 13 innings, 5-3.
The Reds gave it their best effort in the last two games of a three-game series.
But when the other team has four or five future Hall of Famers and a defense full of Gold Glovers, the assignment is difficult.
After losing the first game, 13-4, and winning the second game, 5-1, the Reds battled the Cardinals on even terms for 12 innings.
Then the inevitable. The Cardinals broke a 2-2 tie in the 13th inning with three runs. The first run scored on a sacrifice fly by Albert Pujols and two more scored on a home run by Lars Nootbar off Chase Anderson.
It was a game that was like a page torn out of a baseball fairy tale. Even with the ghost runner on second to start every extra inning, neither the Cards nor the Reds could score in the 10th, 11th and 12th.
The Reds bullpen was stupendous. The Cardinals could not score against Ian Gibaut, Art Warren, Buck Farmer, Hunter Strickland, Alexis Diaz, Reiver Sanmartin and Derek Law.
By then, the Reds were out of relief pitchers, and it was starting pitcher Chase Anderson who gave up the three runs in the 13th.
Amazingly, the Reds left 19 on base and were 5-for-22 with runners in scoring position.
The Reds grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third against St. Louis starter Jose Quintana. In May, Quintana pitched for the Pittsburgh and held the Reds scoreless for seven innings. It was the game in which the Pirates got no hits, but won, 1-0.
Aristides Aquino singled to open the third, his first of three hits. Jose Barrero walked on a full count. Jonathan India singled to score Aquino and push his hitting streak to 14 games. Nick Senzel followed with a run-scoring single and a 2-0 lead.
Cincinnati starter Mike Minor gave up a leadoff single to Paul Goldschmidt to open the fourth and Nolan Arenado drove one 406 feet into the left field upper deck to tie it, 2-2.
One-out singles by Stuart Fairchild and Aquino put two Reds aboard in the fourth, but Barrero hit into an inning-ending double play.
The Reds put two on with two outs in the sixth, singles by Fairchild and Aquino, but Barrero hit into a fielder’s choice.
Yadier Molina led the St. Louis seventh with a single off Warren and Tommy Edman doubled with one out, putting Cardinals on third and second. Farmer replaced Warren and turned off the spigot by striking out pinch-hitter Corey Dickerson and coaxing a ground ball from Goldschmidt.
Fairchild drew an eight-pitch two-out walk in the eighth. Even though Aquino had three hits, manager David Bell sent left hander T.J. Friedl up to pinch-hit.
St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol countered by bringing in left-handed pitcher Jo Jo Romero and he picked Fairchild off first base.
Diaz walked pinch-hitter Nootbar to open the ninth and he stole second while Molina was batting. Molina fouled two bunt attempts and battled Diaz for 10 pitches before popping up.
Diaz retired Brendan Donovan on a fly to right, ending his 12-game hitting streak and Tommy Edman grounded to second, sending it into the bottom of the ninth, still 2-2
Friedl led off the ninth with a bunt hit up the third base line. Barrero missed a bunt attempt, fouled off four two-strike pitches, then flied to deep left. Jake Fraley struck out.
Marmol replaced Romero with closer Ryan Helsley, 9-1 with a 1.04 earned run average, to face India and he walked him on five pitches, pushing the potential winning run on second base. Austin Romine popped out.
And it was ghost runner time.
Edman began the inning at second base with Sanmartin on the mound. He struck out Corey Dickerson, walked Goldschmidt on a full count and ended the inning on a 6-4-3 double play on Arenado.
The Reds had two on with two outs in the 11th, but Helsley struck out pinch-hitter Colin Moran with fastballs clocked at 102, 101 and 101 miles per hour.
St. Louis had a runner on third with one out in the 11th against Sanmartin and he worked out of it, striking out Molina to end the inning.
Ghost runner Moran was thrown out at home with one out in the 11th on a ground ball to shortstop and Austin Romine grounded out with the bases loaded. . .and the game droned on to the 12th.
Newcomer Law retired Goldschmidt with two on and two outs in the 12th.
The Reds had another runner thrown out at home by shortstop Edman in the 12th and had the bases loaded when Friedl grounded out, sending it into the 13th.