Francisco lifts Reds over Cards

Published 9:20 am Monday, September 5, 2011

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Now, the St. Louis Cardinals have to sweep the Milwaukee Brewers again just to keep a sliver of hope alive.

Rookie Juan Francisco capped a career-best four-hit day with the go-ahead single in the 10th inning and the Cincinnati Reds won 3-2 on Sunday to take two of three from a team desperately trying to stay in contention.

The Cardinals swept a three-game series at Milwaukee right before the Reds came to town, but went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position Sunday to fall 9 1/2 games behind the NL Central leaders with 22 games to go. The Cardinals and Brewers have one last three-game set beginning Monday night in St. Louis.

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“If we had been able to win at least two out of three here it would have been a lot more compelling, I guess,” Lance Berkman said. “If we can sweep them again, we can put ourselves at least within the realm of possibility, I guess you could say.”

Jon Jay homered and Daniel Descalso had an RBI triple for the Cardinals, who were only 2 for 20 with men on base and dropped their first series at home against Cincinnati since a three-game sweep June 5-7, 2006.

Berkman just missed a two-run homer in the first on a ball caught at the right-field wall and Bronson Arroyo robbed Rafael Furcal of a likely two-run single in the second, taking a liner off his leg but recovering to throw to first.

“To go scoreless like we did, it’s an aggravating, upsetting day,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We got zeros is what I’m looking at. The guys were not happy to get zeros.”

Francisco Cordero went through the heart of St. Louis’ order for his 30th save in 35 chances and 13th in a row, also giving him seven 30-save seasons. Edgar Renteria hit a two-run homer in the first for the Reds, who won for only the second time in their last eight games.

Cordero passed Todd Jones with his 320th save for 14th on the career list and is one behind countryman Jose Mesa, the saves leader for pitchers from the Dominican Republic. He has five straight 30-save seasons.

“It means a lot, it shows me I’m doing my job,” Cordero said. “I’ve been doing my job a long time.”

Three straight Reds reached with two outs in the 10th against Fernando Salas (5-6) and pinch-runner Chris Valaika scored easily from second on Francisco’s single to center. The Cardinals fell to 6-12 in extra innings, and lead the majors in extra-inning losses.

“I think it’s meaningful,” La Russa said. “As good as our bullpen has been, at times it’s made mistakes. We’ve gotten beat on a lot of pitches that were good to hit.”

Cincinnati reliever Bill Bray (5-2) got pinch-hitter David Freese to fly out with a runner on second to end the ninth.

Arroyo pitched eight innings, matching his season best. He allowed only two runs despite giving up 10 hits, but is winless in his last seven starts against St. Louis.

“Yeah, he was great,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He has a big ’ol welt on his leg from that line drive from Furcal. He got some tough hitters out in some tough situations and we wanted to get him the win, but we got the win.”

Jay’s drive was the 37th allowed by Arroyo, extending his franchise record for a right-hander, but he didn’t allow a runner to reach scoring position his last four innings. He’s 1-5 in his last 12 starts since June 24.

Edwin Jackson struck out eight in seven innings in his best outing since joining the Cardinals at the trade deadline. He trailed 2-0 after the first two hitters but worked six straight scoreless innings after that and is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA his last three starts.

Brandon Phillips opened the game with a single and Renteria followed with his fifth homer before Jackson retired the next three in order.

Renteria struck out with the bases loaded to end the second. Cincinnati also left two on in the sixth and eighth and another scoring opportunity was squandered in the fourth when catcher Gerald Laird reacted quickly on a pitch in the dirt, recovering it several feet away and throwing to Jackson to catch Francisco trying to score.

Jay hit his ninth homer with one out in the first and Descalso’s triple tied it in the fourth.

The first hit with runners in scoring position by either team was Francisco’s squibber off the end of the bat just out of the reach of Descalso at third and reliever Mark Rzepczynski to put runners on the corners with two outs in the eighth. Octavio Dotel got Ryan Hanigan to ground out to end the threat.

NOTES: Reds pitcher Dontrelle Willis (0-4, 4.10 ERA) makes his 200th career start Monday at Chicago against Matt Garza (7-10, 3.64 ERA). … Jake Westbrook (11-7, 4.72) opposes the Brewers’ Randy Wolf (11-9, 3.58) in the opener of a three-game series between the NL Central’s top two teams. … Joey Votto was 0-for-5 for only the fifth time in his career. … Renteria is batting .314 (11 for 35) against the Cardinals and .240 against the rest of the NL. Renteria did strike out three times for the first time since July 26, 2010, against Florida.