CINCINNATI — For the Cardinals bullpen to have a lead at all to hold for the second half of Sunday's game, it took four stolen bases in one inning and a romp of a game by infielder Yairo Munoz.
The Cardinals' utility infielder finished a double shy of the cycle as he homered and drove in two runs for a 3-1 victory against Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park. Munoz had three hits and was involved in all three of the Cardinals' runs.
The bullpen allowed one run -- it came on a pinch-hit homer -- in 4 2/3 innings of work -- to carry the Cardinals to a series win.
The Cardinals have won seven of their past nine games and three consecutive series coming out of the All-Star break. That has helped them gain a foothold at second-place in the National League Central. By taking three of four from the Reds, the Cardinals may also have crystallized Cincinnati's next few weeks by dropping them farther into fifth place.
Giovanny Gallegos got the win, and Carlos Martinez closed off the game for his eighth save of the season. As the tying run at the plate, Joey Votto struck out looking at a fastball from Martinez to end the game.
Jack Flaherty bobbed and weaved around runners on base all the way to the fifth inning before he got the most important out of his start on the last pitch of his start. He allowed two hits and hit a batter in that fifth inning to load the bases for Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig. The Reds wore uniforms modeled after the 1961 Reds, and that meant jerseys vests. Players were allowed to wear sleeves or -- you know, show of their pipes.
Puig walked up to the plate all muscles, no sleeves.
Flaherty got a popup from him for the first out of the inning and that bridged the moment to reliever Gallegos. A righthander and a revelation this season, Gallegos struck out the next two batters of the inning to leave the bases stranded. He has allowed only three of the 28 runners he's inherited this season to score.
The bullpen held from there with the exception of a solo homer in the eighth inning off lefty Andrew Miller. The veteran was working his second innig of the game when the pitch left the park. He had retired the Reds in order with two strikeouts, including one of Joey Votto, in his first inning.
The Cardinals got the majority of their runs in the second inning when they stole four bases on Reds starter Andrew DeScalfani. For the second time in as many games against the righthander, the Cardinals had at least three steals. The steals were important in the second inning Sunday because one helped the Cardinals avoid a double play, and another meant the infield was playing in so that Munoz's first it flaired over the second baseman for an RBI.
Tyler O'Neill started the inning by singles and stealing second. He got to third on the groundball and scored on Munoz's single. Munoz scored on an error for a 2-0 lead.
His solo homer in the ninth widened the lead back to two runs.
Goldschmidt gets a break as Cardinals refresh bullpen, add Rangel to lineup
At one point during this series against the Reds, Cardinals' first baseman Paul Goldschmidt approached manager Mike Shildt to let him know he was feeling good, feeling strong. He knew an off day was likely going to be scheduled for him at some point on the road trip, and Goldschmidt wanted to assure his manager that the heat and the search for his swinging was not weighing on him.
He's getting the break anyway.
The Cardinals will start Rangel Ravelo at first base and batting third on his first day back from the minors. That allows Goldschmidt to get a breather during a series that has been a grind. Goldschmidt singled twice in Friday's game and he had a sacrifice fly during the Cardinals' 10-run inning, but otherwise he's been quieted by the Reds. He's two-for-11 with seven strikeouts. He had a four-strikeout game Thursday, and on Saturday went oh-for-three with runners in scoring position.
Shildt said that it was the "perfect timing" for a day off for Goldschmidt. The team planned to bring Ravelo back at some point to make the bench was stocked with another bat. The day game after a night game also contributed, as did the Cardinals coming into the middle of their 17-game, 17-day stretch out of the All-Star break.
Goldschnmidt said he will use the day to get work in the cage during the game and prep for a possible pinch-hit appearance.
That pushes back all of his work.
In comments you can read here following Saturday's loss in a snappy, crisp, good baseball game, Goldschmidt was blunt about his performance, not just in that game but during the season. He reiterated some of that Sunday morning as he said the thing that has slipped from his hands is consistency. The day-in, day-out feel for his swing and production from it has not been there.
Here's the lineup that will back Jack Flaherty:
1. Tommy Edman, 2B
2. Dexter Fowler, RF
3. Rangel Ravelo, 1B
4. Tyler O'Neill, LF
5. Paul DeJong, SS
6. Yairo Munoz, 3B
7. Andrew Knizner, C
8. Harrison Bader, CF
9. Jack Flaherty, P
More below on the roster moves the Cardinals made.
Also: Matt Carpenter has begun baseball activities and could be headed out for a rehab assignment in the near future to Class AAA or Class AA.
Cardinals' carousel of relievers continues with Webb up, two sent to Memphis
The emergency need for relievers to cover innings, if needed, on Saturday was as short-lived as advertised.
A day after Ryan Helsley spent 12 hours traveling to Cincinnati -- a meandering journey from Class AAA that included a four-hour delay in Charlotte -- the righthander was headed back to Memphis' roster as part of the reset button for the roster. The Cardinals did not want to go too far with 14 pitchers and 11 position players on the roster, and they went less than 24 hours.
The Cardinals promoted lefty Tyler Webb to the majors and brought infielder Rangel Ravelo back with him. To make room on the roster the Cardinals returned Helsley to Memphis and optioned Dominic Leone to the Triple-A bullpen as well.
Helsley pitched well in his cameo Saturday. He pitched two scoreless innings that bought the Cardinals time for a rally that didn't happen. He has bounced between the two levels and the injured list five times already this season.