CINCINNATI (AP) - Not even Brandon Phillips' dramatic homer could spark a Reds' winning streak.
Albert Pujols hit a three-run homer - his second in two days - and Chris Carpenter stymied the NL's most prolific offense again, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-1 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday night.
Pujols connected in the fifth inning off Bronson Arroyo (7-8), who gives up the most homers in the NL. It was Pujols' 20th homer overall and his third since returning from a broken left wrist.
Carpenter (5-7) allowed Joey Votto's RBI single in eight innings, improving to 14-4 career against the Reds. He's won 12 of his last 13 decisions against Cincinnati.
Another sellout crowd was hoping for a second straight Reds comeback. Instead, Fernando Salas - who gave up Phillips' game-ending, two-run homer on Friday - finished them off.
The Reds haven't won consecutive games since June 14-15, leaving them adrift in fourth place in the NL Central.
``A lot of people know we've been inconsistent,' Arroyo said. ``I don't think a lot of guys in here know we haven't won back-to-back games in the last month, but they know we haven't been hot. We've been spinning our wheels. Luckily for us, the division's not doing much.'
Jon Jay had three hits, including a run-scoring single in the seventh off Arroyo. The right-hander gave up eight hits in 6 2-3 innings, remaining winless in three July starts.
``He started the game good, had good command and velocity,' manager Dusty Baker said. ``He just made a couple of big mistakes - and they're not always mistakes, especially with Pujols. That was a changeup down, and he went down and got it. He could just as easily have popped it up.'
The Reds lead the season series 6-5, which includes a rare victory over Carpenter. The right-hander won 10 straight decisions against the Reds before May 15, when the Reds scored eight runs off him for a 9-7 win in Cincinnati that snapped his streak. During that game, Carpenter was annoyed when fireworks smoke lingered over the infield after the celebration of Ramon Hernandez's homer.
When he came to bat for the first time on Saturday, the Reds' public address system reminded him of the moment, playing The Platters' version of ``Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.' The Reds usually don't play music when opponents come to bat. Carpenter paused and appeared to smile briefly. He said afterward that he wasn't paying attention to the music.
There would be no fireworks this time. Carpenter gave up seven hits and fanned seven, throwing 116 pitches.
Knowing they have trouble scoring off Carpenter, the Reds got a little reckless on the bases while trying to force the issue. Chris Heisey was caught in a rundown between second and third, and Drew Stubbs got doubled up at second base on a flyout.
``Well, we urge them to make something happen, but they have to know when and where,' Baker said. ``They're still learning, and sometimes, learning can be costly.'
Votto singled home a run in the third for a 1-0 lead, but the inning ended up as a huge disappointment for the Reds. For the second straight night, they ended up wasting a chance to blow the game open. Carpenter's throwing error let Cincinnati load the bases with one out, but the right-hander got Jay Bruce to ground into a rally-killing double play.
The Cardinals overcame it with one emphatic swing from their quick-healing first baseman.
Pujols returned from a broken left wrist on July 5 after missing only 13 games. He hit only one more homer before the All-Star break, but appears to be back in the swing. He hit a two-run homer in the Reds' 6-5 win on Friday night - Heisey snatched another away at the top of the wall in center field.
He connected in the fifth off Arroyo, extending his hitting streak to four games, a sign he's back in form. He also made a spinning, over-the-shoulder catch of Jonny Gomes' foul in the seventh.
It was a familiar finish for Arroyo, who can't seem to avoid the home run. He has given up 26 this season, accounting for 40 of the 75 runs he's allowed.
Notes: The Cardinals committed three errors, one shy of their season high. ... Pujols grounded into his 20th double play in the first inning, the most in the NL. ... Matt Holliday went 0 for 3, ending his hitting streak at seven games. ... Carpenter doubled in the fifth inning. Three of his five hits this season are doubles. He was thrown out trying to advance to third on a grounder. ... Arroyo is 0-4 in his last six starts against the Cardinals, giving up 26 earned runs in 34 1-3 innings.
The Associated Press News Service
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