CINCINNATI – The capacity crowd was on its feet as Aroldis Chapman threw a final, high-speed strike, one too fast to hit.
Sure felt like more than just another win in the Reds dugout.
First baseman Allen Craigs throwing error in the seventh inning helped Cincinnati rally for its fourth straight win Friday night, 5-3 over the St. Louis Cardinals before the seventh sellout crowd at Great American Ball Park this season.
It was like Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said. It probably should be like that the rest of the year. People are excited. I hope they stay that way until the end.
The Reds drew 40,217 fans for the opener of a series matching the teams trying to overtake first-place Pittsburgh in the NL Central. Both were on hot stretches coming out of the All-Star break – third-place St. Louis had won four of five, while second-place Cincinnati took three straight in San Diego.
The Reds got an ugly one at home.
Craig fielded Ryan Hanigans slow grounder with the bases loaded and threw wildly to first base, allowing two runs to score for a 3-2 lead off Adam Wainwright (7-9). Zack Cozarts sacrifice fly completed a three-run rally that left the Cardinals stunned.
I made my pitch to Hanigan, Wainwright said. I didnt make many mistakes tonight, really. Ive had some tough losses this year. Thats one of those head-scratchers where you just dont know how that happened.
For whatever reason, things have not gone my way sometimes.
Todd Frazier had a solo homer off Wainwright, who gave up only two hits over the first six innings before letting it slip away. Brandon Phillips had three hits and scored twice.
Alfredo Simon (1-1) escaped a bases-loaded threat in the seventh by striking out Matt Holliday. Shane Robinsons pinch-hit single off Sean Marshall cut it to 4-3 in the eighth, but Ryan Ludwick tripled home a run in the bottom of the inning off Fernando Salas.
Chapman fanned three in the ninth for his 12th save in 16 chances, repeatedly hitting 101 mph on the radar gun.
The Reds pulled it out with three runs in the seventh after starter Mat Latos, a former Wizard and TinCap, had an uncharacteristically quick night. Latos had thrown complete games in two of his last three starts, but managed only five innings and left trailing 2-1, having thrown 97 pitches.
Earlier in the year, giving up a couple of runs wouldve led to giving up a couple of more runs, but tonight I was able to minimize the damage, Latos said.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina returned after missing three games and the All-Star game to return to Puerto Rico, where his wifes grandfather died. Molina, who turned 30 on Friday, started St. Louis first rally with a two-out double in the second.