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Quick hits: Jose Quintana excels again for Cardinals who score only run of Game 2 in 11th

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Jose Quintana extended his Cardinals record to nine games at the start of his career with them in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer. But Saturday night’s game against Cincinnati was his best.

The 33-year-old left-hander permitted just two hits over eight scoreless innings, striking out six and getting 11 ground-ball outs. He had to be good because fire-balling Hunter Greene, throwing a record 46 pitches at least 100 miles an hour, also was blanking the Cardinals.

Quintana, whose outing was his longest since he shut out Milwaukee while pitching for the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 24, 2017, got only a pat on the back and internal satisfaction for his efforts because the Cardinals’ offense struck out 16 times against Reds pitching while Quintana was on the mound.

But the Cardinals nailed down a doubleheader sweep anyway, shoving across the only run of the game in the 11th inning, treating a sellout crowd of 48,299 to a 1-0 victory.

Their magic number for clinching the National League Central Division title is nine.

Paul Goldschmidt, who had struck out four times, delivered the only run in the 11th on a grounder to center fielder Nick Senzel, who was playing third in the five-man infield defense with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Senzel made a diving stop but his throw home hit Andrew Knizner in the left elbow and rolled away. The Reds protested that Knizner had interfered but to no avail.

With Knizner the automatic runner at second, Brendan Donovan walked against Fernando Cruz, who had started for the Reds the previous night. Tommy Edman, sacrificing, beat out a bunt when Cruz hesitated before throwing to first.

The winning pitcher was Steven Matz, who wasn’t even on the roster in the afternoon but was taken off the injured list when right-hander Jordan Hicks had to be placed on the IL with arm fatigue and neck spasms.

The Cardinals had missed a huge chance in the 10th when they had the bases loaded with one out facing a five-man Reds infield. Knizner looped a popup to short left center where shortstop Jose Barrero and left fielder TJ Friedl converged on the ball.

At the last instant, Friedl snatched the ball from Barrero and fired home to get Corey Dickerson, who had tagged up.

Greene means go

Greene, the rookie who had had three games in which he has thrown at least 38 pitches 100 miles an hour or more — his major league record was 39 — came off the injured list for Saturday’s second game. And he came out firing.

Greene, who had had a right shoulder strain, struck out 11 hitters in the first six innings, routinely throwing 101-102 mph. He already had 35 pitches over 100 mph after three frames and a new record 46 after six. Also, according to Major League Baseball research, he became the first pitcher since the current tracking system began in 2008 to have nine strikeouts of at least 101 mph in a game. The record had been three.

As a better barometer, Houston’s Justin Verlander has nine strikeouts of at least 101 mph — in his career.

But Quintana volleys

Meantime, Quintana was throwing some 9-10 miles an hour slower but netting the same results.

Quintana gave up only a leadoff double in the second to Donovan Solano over the first six innings, striking out six and recording 10 other outs on groundouts. He needed only 69 pitches to get that far and tossed only 104 pitches in eight innings.

The first six innings sailed along in 1 hour 33 minutes. Greene, who came out after the sixth, gave up just four singles, one a bunt by Alec Burleson. He threw 58 strikes out of 81 pitches.

Pujols pinch hits, fans on changeup

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, with left-hander Reiver Sanmartin in the game, largely emptied his bench in the seventh. He pinch hit Albert Pujols for Burleson and Pujols, still at 698 homers, fanned on a changeup. Then, with two out and nobody on, Marmol lifted left-handed-hitting Lars Nootbaar for switch-hitting Dylan Carlson, who also fanned.

Pujols did not stay in the game, Carlson did and Ben DeLuzio came in to play center field, leaving only right-handed-hitting Paul DeJong and Yadier Molina on the bench and the Reds having no other left-handed relievers.

DeLuzio would make a strong running catch before tumbling to the ground in right center to help out Quintana in the eighth.

Fifty home victories

The Cardinals’ day-game 5-1 triumph was their 50th at home this season, tying them with the New York Yankees for the most in the majors. It was their club-record 19th win on a Saturday and pushed them a season-high 26 games over .500.

Yadier Molina drove in two runs with his fifth homer and scored another on a bases-loaded walk as Cincinnati starter Mike Minor walked five hitters in the first two innings.

Pujols didn’t homer but he did play first base and appeared in his 1,653rd career team win, tying Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial for fourth on the career list.

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Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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