Jose Acevedo left with a 3-2 lead after striking out the side in the sixth inning. (Scott Rovak/Cardinals)
ST. LOUIS -- The two images have been seen way too often for the Reds' taste.
The first is the sight of St. Louis Cardinals Gold Glove center fielder Jim Edmonds reaching his glove over the fence and retrieving a home run -- again. Last year it happened twice. It was Adam Dunn's turn as a burn victim on Tuesday night as Edmonds took away a home run just as the Reds appeared poised to jump on Matt Morris in the second inning.
The second image is far more prevalent, and painful, these days -- the sight of the Reds' bullpen letting a lead slip away. It happened again as home runs by Edgar Renteria and Edmonds rallied the Cardinals to a 5-3 win before 29,786 at Busch Stadium.
It was the fifth straight win for the Cardinals, who opened up a five-game lead over the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and a seven-game edge over the Reds. Since June 7, the Redbirds are 19-8.
The Reds entered June 7 leading the Cardinals by two games, but have since lost 17 of 27, and are 3-10 on the road in that span.
"You can stay alive in this division because you know everyone beats up on each other," Reds leadoff man and sparkplug Ryan Freel said. "But this stretch of games with the Cardinals [10 in the month of July] are really important. Right now our pitching and hitting aren't in synch. We've had some trouble scoring runs, and we've got to hold on and find ways to help the pitchers."
A Home Run Derby seemed like a definite possibility at the start of the evening, as the two starters had given up 44 homers so far this season -- 20 by Jose Acevedo and a league-high 24 by Morris.
Acevedo pitched six strong innings, allowing two runs on four hits, and left with a 3-2 lead after striking out six.
"I'd given up four runs to them [in a 9-2 loss on June 19], and I wanted to show I could do better," said Acevedo. "That and we worked on my mechanics on the sideline between starts and things felt a lot better. That was a real quality start for me against a quality team."
It appeared that Cincinnati was going to strike first as Dunn rocked what surely looked like his 25th homer of the season in the second inning. Edmonds would have none of that, sending his gloved right hand over the wall and coming back with the ball.
Jose Acevedo / P
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Last August at Great American Ball Park, Edmonds did the same thing to Kelly Stinnett and Russell Branyan in back-to-back games. So Dunn had an idea of what might happen.
"I hit the ball off the end of the bat. I really didn't think I hit the ball that far," said Dunn. "But when it's that close to the wall, you know he's coming up with the catch."
Lefty Gabe White (0-1), the most reliable reliever in the Reds bullpen of late, came on in the seventh inning. He had retired 23 of 27 batters since being re-acquired last month in a trade with the New York Yankees.
But Reggie Sanders, pinch-hitting for Morris, quickly jumped on White for a leadoff double. He moved to third on a bunt by Tony Womack, and All-Star shortstop Renteria pounced on an 0-1 pitch for his fifth homer of the year. That made it 4-3, and marked the 19th blown save of the year by the Reds' pen.
Edmonds left no doubt about the 1-2 offering he got from White to lead off the eighth, sending it 411 feet into the right-center-field seats for his 17th homer.
"Both pitches were pretty good, but good hitters sometimes make things happen," White said. "I'd faced those guys plenty of times ... you have to keep battling."
Cardinals lefty Steve Kline pitched two scoreless innings for his second save as he spelled Jason Isringhausen, who had saves the two previous days. Kline gave up a leadoff hit in the ninth to Ken Griffey Jr., his third of the game, but Griffey was erased as Dunn grounded to Albert Pujols at first, starting the third Cardinals double play of the night.
Morris (9-4) wasn't overly flashy. While Dunn got robbed in the second, the Reds jumped on him for three runs, which scored on a double by Jacob Cruz, a sacrifice fly by Acevedo and a single by Freel. Jason LaRue had the first of his two hits, and scored one of the Reds' runs in the inning.
But Morris settled down and gave up just three more hits, two of which were wiped out by double plays. He is now 5-1 in the past five weeks, despite a 5.13 ERA during that stretch.
"He started working off the cutter, and started to turn things around with that," Freel said. "He stayed on that all night."
The Cardinals got two runs back in the third on an RBI double by Roger Cedeno, his second two-bagger of the night, and a sacrifice fly by Marlon Anderson. But they couldn't reach Acevedo again, and he left in the sixth after striking out Cedeno, Anderson and Yadier Molina.
"You feel bad for Jose, who gave us everything we could ask for all night. Gabe has pitched fantastic, but his pitches elevated just a bit, and you see what kind of team that is," Reds manager Dave Miley said.
And Edmonds? "Great glove. Great player," Miley said.
Pete Wickham is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.