Three first inning home runs propel Cardinals over Reds, 7-1

Published 1:18 am Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Associated Press


CINCINNATI — Only 20 pitches into the game, Reds starter Homer Bailey was in deep trouble — too deep for Cincinnati to recover.

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Matt Holliday, David Freese and Yadier Molina homered off the Reds starter during the St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest first inning of the season, and Jake Westbrook found his control after a rough start, beating Cincinnati 7-1 on Monday night.

The Cardinals improved to 4-1 with an offense that hasn’t missed Albert Pujols so far. They’ve piled up three homers in an inning twice already this season, with nine overall.

Bailey retired the first two Cardinals to open the game, then fell apart.

“He got two quick outs and then there were a couple of pitches that were improperly located,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He settled down after that, but it was a little too late.”

Holliday homered, Lance Berkman walked and Freese homered. Molina also homered on the next pitch, prompting Bailey to stand by the side of the mound with both hands scrunched on his hips in disbelief.

“I just got a little passive,” Bailey said. “I got the two quick outs and I didn’t say aggressive. Once you open that can of worms, it’s kind of hard to shut it. Plus the wind was blowing out. After that, I just wanted to go deep into the game. A couple of the balls they hit out were hit really solid.”

After the bad opening inning, Bailey settled in and allowed only two more hits while pitching into the sixth inning. Molina broke the game open with his double off Jose Arredondo in the eighth, which brought boos from the crowd of 16,909 that remembers his role in a brawl with Brandon Phillips two years ago.

Westbrook (1-0) overcame an early bout of wildness, allowing only three hits and one unearned run in seven innings. The right-hander slimmed down in the offseason and had an impressive spring training, getting the sink back on his fastball.

Both starters had a rough time getting adjusted to a windy, 64-degree evening. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the batting-practice pitchers had trouble getting a grip on the ball in the crisp conditions.

“I know exactly what was going on with him early,” Matheny said. “That’s the first time we’ve had that really dry air. The ball felt like it has Vaseline on it. He couldn’t grip it.”

Westbrook was pitching for the first time in nine days. Ten of his first 12 pitches were out of the strike zone. He walked four of the first 10 batters he faced, but didn’t allow a hit until Phillips singled with two outs in the fifth.

“He was a little wild, but he was wild low,” Baker said. “He gets a lot of ground balls anyway, but it’s hard to zero in on him when he’s not throwing strikes. He was effectively wild.”

Phillips came around to score when Zack Cozart hit a comebacker that Westbrook knocked down with his glove. Westbrook retrieved the ball, but threw wildly toward first base for an error that allowed Phillips to score.

The All-Star second baseman got a cramp in his left hamstring as he scored and left the game as a precaution.

“He’s a little sore,” Baker said. “It’s not too serious, but he probably won’t play tomorrow. You don’t want to take any chances.”

Berkman wasn’t in the Cardinals’ original lineup because of a sore right hand. He took a few swings pregame and felt fine, getting back in the lineup at first base. He singled, struck out twice and walked twice.

The Cardinals wanted Berkman in the lineup — he has 23 homers at Great American Ball Park, the most by a visiting player.

NOTES: Kyle Lohse makes his second start for the Cardinals on Tuesday night. Lohse took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a 4-1 win over Miami last Wednesday. … Mike Leake makes his first start for Cincinnati. He pitched four innings in an exhibition against the club’s minor leaguers at Great American last Tuesday. … Cardinals SS Rafael Furcal dived in the hole to get a grounder and threw to second for a forceout while still on his back. … Furcal was held hitless for the first time this season.