Arenado delivers again as Cardinals inch closer in playoff chase with 2-0 win over Reds

By Rick Hummel

ST. LOUIS — Manager Mike Shildt had said before Sunday’s game with Cincinnati he felt that Cardinals slugger Nolan Arenado was about to go on a run after Arenado’s triple and two-run homer in his final two at-bats on Saturday night. And then Arenado’s next at-bat, his first on Sunday, also resulted in a two-run homer.

For the second game in succession, an Arenado homer was the precise margin of victory as the Cardinals closed out a key series with the Reds with a 2-0 win at Busch Stadium, moving them to one game behind Cincinnati as those two teams, among several others, joust for a wild-card spot in the National League playoffs.

The Cardinals wrapped up a 4-3 home stand after losing the first two games of it to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Arenado hopped on a 2-0 Sonny Gray sinker and drove it 389 feet to left, off the Big Mac Land sign, soring Tyler O’Neill, who had singled with two out in the first inning. The homer was Arenado’s 31st and boosted his runs batted in total to 96. He is five for 12 in his career against Gray.

Cardinals starter J.A. Happ blanked the Reds on just one hit, Jonathan India’s third-inning single, over the first five innings after being pelted for eight hits and seven runs by the Reds in one official inning 11 days before that.

In Arenado’s next plate appearance, Gray came up and in on 2-1 pitch, which Arenado didn’t appear to appreciate and was called a checked swing strike by first-base umpire Doug Eddings upon appeal. Shildt had a brief conversation with Eddings but was allowed to stay in the game.

Shildt didn't keep Happ in the game when he issued a one-out hit to Tyler Stephenson in the sixth after leadoff man India flied to the track. The Reds’ lineup was facing Happ for the third time through the order, but the veteran left on a high note, having surrendered only two hits and one walk for 5 1/3 innings.

But the Cardinals’ bullpen was impenetrable in the final two games of the series. On Saturday, three relievers worked hitless ball over the final four innings.

On Sunday, righthander Luis Garcia, possessor of a 23-inning scoreless streak, longest current one in the majors, again responded. He got Nick Castellanos to fly out and Joey Votto to strike out for the third time on a 98.5 mph sinker.

When Garcia allowed a one-out single to pinch hitter Max Schrock in the seventh, Shildt went to double-play specialist T.J. McFarland, a lefthander.

Asdrubal Cabrera complied by bouncing to third baseman Arenado, who started a double play that ended the inning.

Lefthander Genesis Cabrera allowed a leadoff double to the Reds’ Delino DeShields in the eighth. But Cincinnati manager David Bell had just one righthanded pinch hitter on his bench, reserve shortstop Jose Barrero, and Barrero was easy fodder as Cabrera fanned the rookie.

Right fielder Dylan Carlson reached over the box-seat wall to snag India’s foul fly and Cabrera fanned Stephenson on a 100 mph high fastball, paving the way for Giovanny Gallegos and his eighth save. Gallegos pitched around a two-out double by pinch hitter Mike Moustakas in the ninth, fanning Schrock.

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