CINCINNATI -- The Reds and Cardinals won't meet again until late in the summer, when the National League Central contenders tangle 10 more times over the season's final two months. But as the Cards departed Cincinnati with their first extra-inning win of the season -- an 11-4 final in 10 innings -- they were reminded that no matter how well they may continue to play, there's every expectation that the Reds will remain a formidable obstacle on their quest toward a division title.
While the final score would suggest the Cardinals had little trouble dispatching the Reds, it wasn't until the club exploded for seven runs in the 10th that the game got out of hand. What was left of an announced crowd of 38,023 at Great American Ball Park watched Daniel Descalso spark the big inning with an RBI double off the left-field wall that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game.
"These guys are never out of a ballgame," said Reds starter Bronson Arroyo said of St. Louis. "Some teams you have down, 4-2, you feel like the game's over, especially with the back end of our bullpen. But these guys fight their way, man. The whole lineup poses some problems. … Every guy in that lineup has a hitting streak going, so it's not easy to navigate for nine innings."
Descalso, inserted into the lineup largely because of his success against Arroyo, went hitless in his first four at-bats before getting to Reds reliever J.J. Hoover. Allen Craig and David Freese had reached base in front of him with a walk and single, respectively. Freese's hit extended his hitting streak to 19 games.
The flood gates opened from there.
Matt Carpenter, who had earlier pushed his own hit streak to 18 games, padded the lead with a two-run single. Matt Holliday capped the seven-run frame with his fifth career grand slam into the second deck in left field. The Reds estimated the distance of the blast to be 464 feet.
The victory pushed the Cardinals' division lead back to four games and secured the team's 14th series win this season. The Cardinals are now 6-3 against the Reds, having won all three series against the division's defending champs.
"I think every time we play the Reds this year it will be a big series because ultimately, it looks like we're both going to be battling for our division," Holliday said. "Every game we play against the Reds this year will be important."
"These are two teams that play the game hard, play the game the right way, have good pitching staffs, good lineups," added Descalso. "That's what baseball's all about. It was a well-played game tonight, and we were fortunate to come out on top."
The St. Louis offense had the opportunity to send the club off to New York celebrating largely because the bullpen didn't budge. After the Reds scored four times off starter Lance Lynn, four relievers combined for four scoreless innings.
Seth Maness aided Randy Choate out of the seventh by inducing an inning-ending double play on the only pitch he threw. Trevor Rosenthal followed with two perfect innings, striking out four of the six batters he faced while throwing 17 of his 20 pitches for strikes. Kevin Siegrist closed the game with two strikeouts in a perfect 10th.
The win went to Rosenthal, the first of his career. It was an achievement that nearly went unrecognized in the clubhouse, as Rosenthal was the only one aware until well after the game ended. Once his teammates were told, they initiated the usual beverage shower to celebrate.
"It's pretty cool," Rosenthal said. "It was definitely a good game. Everyone had a role and came through. Just being a part of the way these guys play baseball, it's really fun for me. To get a win is big and it's even more fun in a game like that."
Lynn entered the game seeking his ninth win and instead settled for a no-decision. Cincinnati raced out quickly with a pair of first-inning runs set up by Shin-Soo Choo's double and a walk to Joey Votto. After the Cardinals evened the game, Cincinnati scored twice more with two out in the fifth. On the ninth pitch of an at-bat, Jay Bruce delivered a two-run double into the right-field corner.
The only 1-2-3 inning of Lynn's night came in the sixth, his last.
"It was one of those games where I felt the first batter in every inning was on, and I couldn't get into a rhythm," Lynn said. "When you have those games, it's just a grind. I was just trying to do everything I could to keep it there, especially after giving up a couple early."
Lynn did get a critical assist to work out of a third-inning jam when, with two out, right fielder Carlos Beltran fielded Bruce's single and threw out Votto, who was trying to go first-to-third on the hit. Freese provided quite the decoy on the play, too, standing casually near third base, giving no indication that Beltran's throw was going to be in time for him to make the tag.
Beltran than began the next half-inning with a homer, the Cardinals' first long ball of the series and first run of the game. The blast, which came off Arroyo, extended Beltran's hitting streak to 10 games.
Holliday followed with a double. Two batters later, Yadier Molina doubled the left fielder home to tie the game, 2-2.
The Cardinals erased a second deficit in the seventh. Jon Jay, pinch-hitter Matt Adams and Carpenter opened the inning with consecutive hits off reliever Sam LeCure. Beltran added a game-tying sacrifice fly.
"I think we've shown that kind of fight," manager Mike Matheny said. "They just piled it on tonight. You love to see that tenacity of just still grinding the at-bats offensively. The pieces, the guys, they all did their part. It was a joy to watch."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.