Sweeping Statement

Published 2:08 am Thursday, August 12, 2010

CINCINNATI — With an emphatic sweep, the St. Louis Cardinals gave second baseman Brandon Phillips a different description to use.

Whiners? Complainers?

Try division leaders.

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Colby Rasmus hit his first career grand slam, Adam Wainwright dominated again and the brawl-scarred Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-1 on Wednesday, completing a three-game sweep that changed the standings and made a point.

The defending NL Central champs won’t let themselves be dismissed or demeaned.

“It certainly added fuel to our fire when you’ve got guys opening their mouth, saying stupid stuff,” said Wainwright (17-6), who gave up only two singles in seven shutout innings. “But we only used that in a positive way. It’s very unprofessional to fire back.”

The Cardinals overtook the Reds with their first three-game sweep in Cincinnati since 2005, moving a game ahead in the standings. It couldn’t have been more satisfying.

While the Cardinals dressed afterward, televisions in the visitors’ clubhouse were tuned to a sports show that replayed their brawl with the Reds from the previous night, one incited by Phillips’ comments. The All-Star second baseman had said he hates the Cardinals and called them a bunch of complainers.

When his words were shown again on the TV screen, one Cardinal simply chuckled.

The lopsided series could represent a tipping point in the two-team race.

Cincinnati was on one of its best surges of the season, leading St. Louis by two games when it began. The Reds were shut down by one of the league’s best rotations — Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Wainwright, who joined Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez as the NL’s 17-game winners.

St. Louis thumped ’em every which way.

“A lot of things were going on. It’s a pumped-up series, everybody was jacked up,” said Rasmus, who got his first grand slam on his 24th birthday. “With the pitching we have, that’s kind of tough for them, especially coming in with the words they were putting out there. I think it just kind of got everybody more pumped up. It definitely didn’t work in their favor.”

The Reds hadn’t lost three in a row since the All-Star break, and hadn’t been swept at home all season. Phillips’ incendiary words became a backdrop and flashpoint for a first-inning brawl on Tuesday night, when he and catcher Yadier Molina went nose-to-nose at home plate. A couple of Cardinals got kicked by Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who was pinned against the backstop.

A day later, the Reds didn’t put up much of a fight. They managed only four baserunners against Wainwright — two on errors. The right-hander improved to 9-0 in day games, best in the league. Wainwright has been on top of his game, going 3-0 in August while allowing one run.

The Reds were held to 11 singles in the last two games. Phillips, their leadoff hitter, had two singles in 14 at-bats during the series, getting the ball out of the infield three times.

“We’re just going to look forward,” Phillips said. “There is no reason to panic. They’re a good team. They’ve been to the playoffs so many times.”

There were some lingering wounds from the seven-minute scrum. Reserve catcher Jason LaRue had sore ribs and was expected to get X-rays. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa expects Major League Baseball to discipline the Reds for the brawl.

Reds manager Dusty Baker acknowledged before Wednesday’s game that his team had so far been outplayed. Baker sat in the steamy afternoon heat and watched it happen again.

Arroyo hadn’t given up an earned run in his last two starts. The Cardinals loaded the bases in the fifth with the help of an intentional walk to Albert Pujols. Arroyo got ahead of Rasmus 0-2 in the count, but the outfielder fouled off a couple of tough pitches, worked the count full, then homered off the base of the batter’s eye in center field.

“You try to put this series behind you,” Arroyo said. “This took a lot out of us. With the heat and three of the best pitchers in the league, it took a lot out of us.”

NOTES: With LaRue hurt, the Cardinals called up C Steven Hill from Double-A. He’ll make his big-league debut. They also put RHP Jeff Suppan on the 15-day DL with a sore groin. … The thunderstorm caused a 46-minute delay and left standing water in the outfield. … St. Louis moved a season-high 15 games over .500 with the sweep. … Pujols’ hitting streak ended at 10 games. … The NL standings board in right field showed the Reds still in first place during the game, even though they’d fallen percentage points behind St. Louis.