"Maybe at this point, we're not in the best position, but we can wreck some other people's chances." said Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, who was 2-for-3 with a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored. "I think as a competitor, it's not just as fulfilling but it's a very fulfilling thing that you can go out and beat the teams that are competing for the playoffs and the teams that are at the top of the division. We need to go out there and keep doing that."
Even with their most runs scored since a 10-9 loss to the Rockies on Aug. 17, it wasn't a pretty win for the Reds, who allowed 14 hits while getting 12 of their own. However, the club came in the losers of six of their last seven games and eight of the previous 10.
It started smoother as starter Mike Leake pitched six-plus innings and gave up three earned runs and eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He exited with a 7-1 lead after giving up a leadoff double and a single to begin the seventh.
Now 11-11 with a 3.62 ERA in 30 starts, Leake's 197 1/3 innings for the season broke his career high set last season.
Mesoraco's two-run homer to left field off Michael Wacha with two outs in the bottom of the first inning gave the Reds a 2-0 lead. It was Mesoraco's 23rd homer of the season and his 22nd as a catcher -- the most for a Red at that position since Johnny Bench hit 23 homers in 1980. Since ending a 1-for-32 skid, Mesoraco is 12-for-34 (.353) with three homers and 10 RBIs.
"It was the first time I've ever faced Wacha, I believe. I wasn't quite sure what to expect because it was the first time, so I wanted to see a couple of pitches," Mesoraco said. "At 3-2 there, he kind of left a curveball there in the middle part of the plate."
A four-run Reds fifth inning gave Leake what would be much-needed breathing room as eight batters came to the plate. Mesoraco hit an RBI double that scored Brayan Pena to end the night for Wacha, who was on a 70-pitch limit. Brandon Phillips hit a two-run double off the Cardinals' Jason Motte, and Zack Cozart's RBI single brought Phillips home for a six-run lead.
St. Louis sent nine to the plate in its three-run seventh that tightened the game. Jumbo Diaz replaced Leake and allowed both inherited runners to score, along with one of his own with a bases-loaded, two-out walk. Pena's diving catch near first base to rob A.J. Pierzynski saved the Reds from a potentially disastrous inning.
"The good thing was we stayed resilient. We needed to," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "If that ball Pierzynski hit ends up getting down the line, it's a backbreaker. Pena came up big. You don't want to say it was a game saver, but the momentum was starting to shift."
Despite his team creeping closer, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny seemed to be offering victory to the Reds. Matheny used six relievers and 17 position players in the game, as he lifted most of his regulars during the late innings.
The Cardinals kept coming in the ninth against J.J. Hoover, who allowed two hits and an unearned run. Aroldis Chapman was needed to get the final out, which gave him his 31st save.