McCoy: Reds drop second straight, series to Cardinals

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Cincinnati Reds invested $14 million in pitcher Frankie Montas to provide a veteran presence and leadership for its young starting pitchers.

And for his first two starts, dominant wins, it was money well-invested. But not since those first two starts.

With a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday afternoon in Great American Ball Park, the Reds have lost seven of his last eight starts.

Montas gave up three runs and six hits in six innings as the Reds lost their second straight and dropped the series two games to one.

The Cardinals have won seven of their last eight and 12 of their last 15 to climb out of last place in the National League Central to third.

The Reds? They’ve claimed squatter’s right on last place once occupied by the Cardinals.

The Cardinals started veteran relief pitcher Andre Pallonte, a right-hander with a bad history. In his previous nine relief appearances, the Cardinals lost eight, the last five in a row.

So Pallante was dispatched to Triple-A and turned into a starter ... with huge success.

And it carried over Wednesday during his first start in the majors since July of 2022. In that one, he pitched eight scoreless innings against the Washington Nationals.

Against the Reds on Wednesday, he gave up no runs and three hits over six innings. The Reds didn’t have a hit until the fourth inning.

The Reds had him in trouble in the first inning. He walked leadoff hitter T.J. Friedl, returning to the lineup after missing only 17 days with a fractured thumb.

Pallante also walked Jeimer Candelario with one out. For some reason, Jake Fraley swung at Pallante’s first pitch and he grounded into a pitcher-to-shortstop-to-first base double play.

Cincinnati’s first hit arrived with two outs in the fourth, a single by Fraley. Fraley stole second, but Spencer Steer lined to center.

Montas retired the first six Cardinals, but 39-year-old designated hitter Matt Carpenter ambushed the first pitch in the third inning and crash-landed it into the right field bleachers, his 23rd career home run against the Reds.

The Cardinals pushed their lead to 3-0 in the fourth, a two-run inning launched when Montas walked Paul Goldschmidt to open the inning. He scored from first on Nolan Gorman’s double into the right-field corner.

After a walk to Carpenter, rookie Masyn Winn extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a run-scoring single. He had three hits and is shouting a strong message toward winning National League Rookie of the Year.

Once they rid themselves of Pallante, the Reds made a rush toward winning.

They scored two runs on six hits in the last three innings against relievers John King, Andrew Kittredge and shaky closer Ryan Helsley.

They scored one in the seventh on a double by Nick Martini and a run-scoring single by Jonathan India.

St. Louis 3, Cincinnati 1.

But the Cardinals scored a run in the top of the eighth when Gorman homered off struggling Brent Suter, to whom the Reds are paying $3 million to return him to his hometown.

St. Louis 4, Cincinnati 1.

The Reds scored a run in the eighth against Kittredge, a hustle run from Elly De La Cruz. He singled. Candelario singled to right and De La Cruz had a stop sign at third. But when the relay man, Gorman, dropped the throw, De La Cruz bolted for home and slid across.

St. Louis 4, Cincinnati 2.

Unfortunately for the Reds, the Cardinals scored another run in the ninth against Buck Farmer. Former Reds minor-league outfielder Michael Siani, after striking out his first three times, dropped a one-out bunt up the third base line for a hit.

Brendan Donovan singled and Goldschmidt walked to fill the bases. Farmer also walked Alex Burleson, forcing in a big, big run.

St. Louis 5, Cincinnati 2.

The Cardinals brought in their hard-throwing closer, Helsley, who has been, to say the least, adventuresome lately. And he was again.

Martini lashed his first pitch of the ninth for a single and Helsley walked India on four pitches. That put two on with no outs and the potential tying run, Stuart Fairchild, at the plate.

Fairchild grounded to first, moving the runners to third and second. Tyler Stephenson flied to right, scoring Martini on the sacrifice fly.

Helsey tempted disaster by walking Friedl on a full count, putting two on with two outs and De La Cruz at bat as the possible walk-off winner with a home run.

At game’s beginning, De La Cruz was 5 for his last 41 with 18 strikeouts. But on Wednesday he had a pair of singles as he stepped into the batter’s box in the ninth.

It ended quickly ... a ground ball to shortstop Winn. He stepped on second for the game-ending force out and Helsley had his wobbly 18th save.

St. Louis 5, Cincinnati 3.

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