CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cincinnati Reds lost their third straight game and dropped 2 1/2 games behind Arizona for the last NL wild card berth as Willson Contreras homered for the third straight game and drove in three runs Saturday night in the St. Louis Cardinals' 4-3 victory.
“I'm feeling pretty good,” Contreras said. “I'm trying to short to the ball and make solid contact. I'm not trying to hit home runs. That doesn't work for me. I was feeling pretty good early in the year, but I had bad luck. Now, I'm putting the ball in play and having better luck.”
Lars Nootbaar broke a 3-3 tie in the fourth with a two-out RBI double off Sam Moll after Tommy Edman chased Carson Spiers (0-1) with a leadoff single.
Cincinnati (73-71) fell 7 1/2 games behind NL Central-leading Milwaukee with 18 games left.
St. Louis (63-79) has won four of five. The Cardinals haven't won back-to-back series since June 16-22.
Zack Thompson (5-5) improved to 3-0 in his last four starts. allowing three runs and five hits in six innings with six strikeouts and three walks, The 25-year-old left-hander was selected 19th overall by the Cardinals in the 2019 amateur draft from the University of Kentucky.
Casey Lawrence, John King and Giovanny Gallegos each pitched a scoreless inning.
Ryan Helsley walked Christian Encarnacion-Strand leading off the ninth, and Tyler Stephenson hit a grounder to shortstop Masyn Winn for the forceout. Second baseman Tommy Edman's throw to first wasn't in time as Encarnacion-Strand barreled into Edman and flipped him, and a video review determined Encarnacion-Strand had committed a baserunning violation, and Stephenson was called out.
“I know it was a big call, a big play in the game,” Reds manager David Bell said. "I’d rather just talk about the game. Once it goes to replay, there’s nothing you can do. As far as the letter of the law, I’m trusting that they got it right.
Helsley struck out Will Benson on a 102.1 mph full-count pitch for his eighth save in 10 chances and second in two days.
“He came in after playing catch and said, ‘If we have the lead, I want the ball,’ Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. ”We had the lead. He got the ball."
Bell was ejected for the major league-leading seventh time this year and the 27th time in his managing career, tossed in the fourth after Brennan Miller called a strike on a 2-0 pitch to Stephenson that appeared to be above the strike zone.
Stephenson flied out and Alejo López was ejected after saying something to Miller after a called third strike on a curveball that appeared to be high.
López, promoted on Saturday, started at second base after a pregame mishap. Reds third baseman Noelvi Marte sustained a facial cut when hit on the face with a throw by shortstop Elly De La Cruz when the rookies were tossing just before gametime.
Lineup cards already had been exchanged, and Marte was replaced at third by Spencer Steer, who originally scheduled to start at second. López became the Reds' 64th player this season, two shy of team record
Contreras hit an RBI single in the first and tied the score 3-3 with a two-run homer in the third.,
Stephenson and Alejo López hit back-to-back RBI doubles during a three-run second that included Harrison Bader's run-scoring single, his first RBI in eight games since the Reds acquired him from the New York Yankees.
OUT OF TIME
Bader was called out on strikes by plate Miller for a time violation with two strikes in the first inning.
Cardinals: Edman swung and missed at pitch that hit him in the lower left thigh leading off the second inning. He stayed in the game and beat out an infield hit to third.
Reds: OF Stuart Fairchild was placed on the COVID-19 injured lost and LHP Alex Young was transferred from the 15-day injured list (left hamstring tightness) to the COVID-19 injured list. Young was on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville.
Reds RHP Hunter Greene (3-6, 4.75, 114 strikeouts) is scheduled to come off the COVID-19 injured list to start against Cardinals LHP Miles Mikolas (7-10, 4.63, 114 strikeouts) on Sunday.