CINCINNATI (AP) - Two games into their series against the defending World Series champion Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds have gotten little return for their two big paydays.
Carlos Beltran and David Freese homered again on Tuesday night, and Kyle Lohse provided another stingy performance, leading St. Louis a 3-1 victory over the Reds a few hours after Cincinnati gave out another big contract.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips agreed to a deal through 2017 worth $72.5 million. It came only five days after slugger Joey Votto got an additional 10 years and $225 million, looking to turn the 2010 NL Central champions into a consistent contender.
Phillips got a cramp in his left hamstring while scoring an unearned run during a 7-1 loss to the Cardinals on Monday night and is expected to miss several days. Votto drove in the Reds' only run on Tuesday with a sacrifice fly.
In the first two games of the series, Cincinnati has managed only seven hits, while the Cardinals piled up five homers.
``We've got a few guys struggling at the plate,' manager Dusty Baker said. ``They just need to relax and do what they're capable of doing. This team can hit, and we're going to hit.'
Not like the Cardinals so far.
Beltran, counted on to help make up for the loss of Albert Pujols, hit his third homer off Mike Leake (0-1). Freese, the World Series MVP, added a two-run shot off Leake - also his third.
St. Louis came into the game leading the majors with nine homers. It has five in its first two games at Great American Ball Park, one of the majors' most homer-friendly places.
Lohse (2-0) has made impressive starts in Florida's summery warmth and Cincinnati's April chill. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a 4-1 win in Miami last Wednesday, allowing only one run and two hits.
With temperatures in the 40s on Tuesday night, he was in control again, allowing Votto's sacrifice fly and four hits in six innings. Lohse took a little while to adjust to the vastly different conditions in his second start.
``He was locating his sinker and kept us off-balance,' said Chris Heisey, who was 0 for 4. ``Once he got on a roll, it was tough to get him out.'
Relievers Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte retired the last nine batters in order, with Motte getting his second save in two chances.
The Cardinals' rotation has been sensational so far, going 5-1 with a 1.86 ERA.
For the second game in a row, the Cardinals got to a Reds starter before he could break a sweat. They hit three homers in the first inning off Homer Bailey on Monday night.
Beltran hit Leake's fifth pitch into the stands in right field. Leake escaped another big Cardinals first inning by getting Yadier Molina to ground into a double play with the bases loaded. Molina also grounded into a double play with two runners aboard in the eighth.
Lance Berkman, who has the most homers by a visiting player at Great American, tripled into the right-field corner in the sixth. Freese followed with his third homer, a drive that bounced off the top of the wall in right field and caromed up into the stands.
Leake thinks the Cardinals are just as formidable without Pujols, who left as a free agent for the Angels after the World Series championship.
``It's still a difficult lineup,' Leake said. ``They lost a big name, but they're still a threat.'
Berkman left the game in the eighth with tightness in his left calf, which started bothering him after he ran out his triple.
Zack Cozart hit his second triple of the season in the bottom of the inning and scored on Votto's sacrifice fly, making it 3-1.
NOTES: LHP Jaime Garcia starts the final game of the series for St. Louis. He's 6-1 in his career against the Reds with a 3.13 ERA. He has given up more than three runs only once in his seven starts against Cincinnati. ... RHP Johnny Cueto makes his second start for Cincinnati. He pitched seven innings in a 4-0 opening win over Miami last Thursday. ... SS Rafael Furcal was out of the Cardinals' starting lineup for the first time, getting some rest. ... Reds RHP reliever Nick Masset, who started the season on the 15-day DL with a sore shoulder, hasn't started throwing yet.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved