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CIN@STL: Mesoraco drives home a run in the fifth

ST. LOUIS -- To acquire pitcher Mat Latos in a December blockbuster, the Reds parted with three top prospects and pitcher Edinson Volquez. Three starts into his 2012 season, Cincinnati is still waiting for the Latos it traded for.

It's been a tough road trip filled with several close losses, but the signs of a blowout came quick during Wednesday's 11-1 defeat to the Cardinals. Over 5 2/3 innings, Latos tied a career high with eight runs allowed on nine hits, plus three walks and six strikeouts.

"They jumped on him early," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Then he settled down in later innings and then they jumped him again. I didn't want to go through our bullpen so early."

It's very premature to evaluate the merits of a trade after only three starts, but it certainly hasn't been a good first impression for Latos. The 24-year-old right hander is 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA.

"We need desperately to get his first one," Baker said.

Latos' limited track record in three previous starts against the Cardinals suggested it might be a tough task to get his first win as a Red. His ERA at Busch Stadium actually went down after this start -- to 18.82.

The rough night began instantly as Latos' first batter, Rafael Furcal, hit a double to right field and Carlos Beltran walked. On a slow grounder to second base, Lance Berkman beat Latos covering at first base for an infield single as Furcal scored from third base. David Freese made it 3-0 with a two-run double down the left-field line.

Latos seemed to nibble around the plate to begin the second, as he walked No. 8 hitter Tyler Greene. There were two outs when Beltran -- who came in 2-for-2 with two home runs lifetime against Latos -- took him deep again by hitting a belt-high 1-2 fastball to right field for a two-run homer.

"They're a good hitting ball club," Latos said. "It wasn't really about not hitting my spots. It was more not trusting my stuff ... I was not trusting my stuff and not just rearing back and letting it go. I was trying to be too fine and too perfect. I said, 'The hell with it,' reared back and just threw and gave it everything I've got. I think the outcome was a little different.

"The positive out of it is I found out what I hadn't been doing."

Latos' different approach yielded results for the next three scoreless frames, including perfect third and fifth innings. Although he surpassed five innings for the first time this season, the Cardinals added on in the sixth.

The final blow came from St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia, who drove a two-run triple just out of Drew Stubbs' reach at the center-field warning track.

Latos didn't feel that he was trying too hard to get in the win column for Cincinnati.

"It hasn't been on my mind," he said. "Just finding my right rhythm [is]. I feel like I made progress today even though I got the crap kicked out of me. I feel like I found that rhythm."

Cincinnati, which dropped to 4-8 overall and five games behind first-place St. Louis, is 1-5 on a 10-game road trip. The club has been limited to one run in six of its last nine games.

Garcia became the fourth Cardinals starter to get off to a 2-0 start this season. By wide contrast, the Reds' rotation has one win total.

The Reds tapped Garcia for three runs and 11 hits over 4 2/3 innings in his previous outing, but managed little on Wednesday. The lefty snuffed out potential rallies by inducing four double plays -- including two from Brandon Phillips. The visitors were 2-for-20 on the night with runners on base.

"When somebody got on base, I trusted my sinker," Garcia said. "It was a lot better execution today when I needed to make pitches."

In the fifth, Chris Heisey hit a one-out triple to the right-field corner and scored when Devin Mesoraco beat out an infield single to the shortstop. In the sixth, a Stubbs single and a Joey Votto walk gave the Reds runners on first and second with no outs. But Phillips grounded into a 5-4-3 double play that stalled the comeback hopes.

Garcia finished with seven innings and gave up one run and seven hits, with three walks and three strikeouts.

"Garcia was killing us with the bat and the ball," Baker said. "Four double plays -- those are killer. That's eight outs on four pitches. Rough night tonight."

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