ST. LOUIS -- A day after sparking the Cardinals' game-winning rally, rookie Tommy Pham completed it on Tuesday night, his sacrifice fly lifting St. Louis to a 3-1 win over the Reds that also featured another strong start from John Lackey.
The win inched the Cardinals, who are already assured a playoff spot, closer to the one they want. With a four-game lead over the Pirates in the National League Central, the Cardinals' magic number for a division title sits at eight. They are also comfortably ahead in the race for home-field advantage in the NL postseason.
Pham drove in both of the Cardinals' runs en route to the team's 52nd win at Busch Stadium. His one-out RBI double in the third erased the Reds' early lead. He then connected for his first Major League sacrifice fly in the seventh after hits by Tony Cruz and Matt Carpenter.
"He's feeling good at the plate, and we're just trying to keep him there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Pham, who has nine extra-base hits in his last 30 at-bats. "He believes in himself. He's not a young guy straight out of college. He's grinded through the Minor League seasons, and when you see those sorts of production numbers in the Minor League system, that's usually a pretty good indicator of the kind of talent."
Reds reliever Sam LeCure shouldered the loss after the Reds watched rookie righty Keyvius Sampson make one of the better starts of his young career. He scattered four hits and three walks while allowing one run in 5 1/3 innings.
Lackey was as he has been at home all season: sensational. He lowered his Busch Stadium ERA to 1.97 while making his 14th home start of at least seven innings.
"When you throw the ball well, you throw the ball well," Lackey said. "It doesn't really matter where it's at. I think there is a comfort level here as a team, because it's a fun place to play, great fan support. I think that kind of helps us all out."
Lackey scattered eight singles after allowing a Jay Bruce home run on his seventh pitch of the game. But the Reds were held to one run on back-to-back nights despite having 11 hits. They went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.
"We did a nice job getting guys on base and swinging the bat," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We just weren't able to break out with a big hit. They didn't create bigger problems by walking hitters. Their staff was very good at not adding to those innings with bases-on-balls. … They were able to wiggle out of some jams, and we weren't in the later innings."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Seeing double: Lackey helped himself out of some early trouble by inducing three inning-ending double plays over the first five innings. His first was especially timely, as it quelled a bases-loaded threat in the second. The trio of twin killings brought Lackey's season total to 28, the most of any NL pitcher. His previous career high had been 23 (2007).
"When Lackey is out there, you know you're going to get a ground ball at some point," said Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, who was involved in two of the double plays. "It keeps you on your toes." More >
Frazier almost flips: Reds third baseman Todd Frazier made a nice effort to catch Matt Adams'' leadoff foul pop near the Reds dugout in the fourth. After running in at full speed, Frazier caught the ball and almost flipped completely into the camera well before being grabbed by Sampson. Frazier held on to the ball for the out. In the third inning, with a runner on third base and two outs in a 1-1 game, Frazier also made a nice grab and throw to rob Jhonny Peralta of a run-scoring hit.
"Sometimes you have to play with reckless abandon," Frazier said. "When you're going after a ball, you have to pretend like there's no wall or no railing there. I try to get every ball and help the pitchers out." More >
Siegrist strands 'em: Tasked with protecting a one-run lead, Kevin Siegrist worked himself into and out of trouble in a scoreless eighth. A walk and two-out double led the Cardinals to intentionally walk Frazier, leaving Siegrist to face pinch-hitter Ivan DeJesus Jr. with the bases full. Siegrist induced an inning-ending groundout. With the appearance, Siegrist became just the 10th reliever in franchise history to pitch in 75 regular-season games. With two punchouts, Siegrist also became the first lefty reliever in franchise history to tally 85 strikeouts.
A true Busch blast: In the top of the first inning, on a 1-1 pitch from Lackey, Bruce drove a solo homer to right field that rewrote some distance records at Busch Stadium 3. Estimated at 456 feet (exit velocity of 109 mph) by Statcast™, it was the longest homer by a left-handed hitter in the current ballpark's history and tied with Paul Goldschmidt for the longest homer by a visiting player. It was also Bruce's 25th homer of the season, which made him the eighth player in team history to have five 25-homer seasons.
"You have a little bit more juice when you're going in for your first save with a new club. It's been a while since I felt something like that. It was awesome to have the opportunity to be out there and shut the door and help the team win." -- Steve Cishek, who, stepping in for an unavailable Trevor Rosenthal, notched his first save with the Cardinals.More >
"Once I got aggressive and got going, my tempo was better. I kind of was just attacking guys and trusting myself and trusting my stuff." -- Sampson on the difference between this start and many of the previous ones in which he struggled. The last time he allowed only one run in a start was Aug. 8.
WHAT'S NEXT Reds:Brandon Finnegan will make his second Major League start when the Reds and Cardinals conclude their season series at 8:15 p.m. ET Wednesday. In his first start, Finnegan allowed one run over five innings on Friday at Milwaukee for the 5-3 victory.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will continue their pursuit of a division title on Wednesday, when they wrap up their final series against the Reds this season. Lance Lynn, who has a 5.34 ERA over his last seven starts, is still looking for his first win in September. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. CT.