Reds tag McFarland for two in ninth and win series opener vs. Cardinals, 4-2

By Rick Hummel

ST. LOUIS — Cardinals relievers Luis Garcia (22 innings) and T.J. McFarland (18 1/3) boasted the two longest current scoreless streaks for major league pitchers before Friday night. Garcia extended his. McFarland did not as the Cardinals lost the first game of a critical series to Cincinnati, 4-2.

With the Cardinals and Reds tied at 2 in the ninth, McFarland was victimized by a Reds player who was on the taxi squad until a few hours ahead of the game and a couple of errant throws from Cardinals infielders.

Eugenio Suarez, who had homered for the game’s first run off Jon Lester in the second inning, singled off McFarland and and was run for by Shogo Akiyama. Aristides Aquino tapped into a forceout with both catcher Yadier Molina and second baseman Tommy Edman making good plays.

But Jose Barrero, replacing Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer, who went on paternity leave, doubled to left center. The Reds brought Aquino around third and Edman had a shot to throw him out but Edman's peg home was well wide as Barrero went to third.

From there, Barrero scored on a grounder to shortstop Paul DeJong, who double-clutched before firing home and his throw drew Molina just far enough from the center of the plate that he could not tag out Barrero, who made a fadeaway, hand-first slide.

The Cardinals fell three games behind Cincinnati in the race for the second wild-card spot. San Diego started the night a game ahead of Cincinnati.

The Reds' win was their fifth in succession at Busch against the Cardinals and gave them the season series with their 10th win in 17 games. The Cardinals had won the season series in each of the nine preceding seasons.

Suarez was hitting only .173 for the season but not against Lester. Entering the game, Suarez had a .lifetime .356 mark with six homers in 45 career at-bats against the Cardinals left-hander who used to be with the Chicago Cubs.

No. 7 landed 452 feet away in the left-center-field seats in the second inning and gave the Reds a 1-0 lead.

That became 2-0 in the fourth when Joey Votto celebrated his 38th birthday by zipping his 30th homer to left-center, just removed from the leaping attempt of center fielder Harrison Bader.

Votto continued that celebration on his way to the dugout. But not to the extent that Molina exulted in his game-tying homer, his 11th of the season. After Nolan Arenado walked to open the Cardinals’ fourth, Molina homered to left and shook his fists and clapped his hands in excitement early in his home-run trot and implored the crowd for more noise as he raised his arms over his head nearing the completion of that trot. The crowd responded by urging a curtain call and Molina responded.

Molina has 125 runs batted in against the Reds for his career, tying Hall of Famer “Sunny Jim” Bottomley for fifth place among Cardinals swatsmiths. At that point, he was 11 for 22 (.500) with three home runs against Reds starter Tyler Mahle.

Lester, after pitching around two walks in the fourth by getting a double-play ball on Barrero, got three more ground-ball outs in a perfect fifth. And, after walking Votto with two outs in the sixth, Lester even struck out Suarez to end the inning.

Lester then finished the seventh, marking his longest stint, as a Cardinal, by retiring pinch hitter Asdrubal Carrera on a fly to left, stranding a runner at second base.

After giving up 11 runs in 10 1/3 innings in his first two starts for the Cardinals after being acquired from Washington, Lester has allowed one run or two in five of his past six.

On Friday, he allowed a season-low three hits while throwing 96 pitches. He still is two wins shy of 200 for his career.

Garcia upped his streak to 23 innings with a spotless eighth before leaving for McFarland in the ninth. Closer Giovanny Gallegos had closed the two previous games.

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