ST. LOUIS (AP) -An hour-long rain delay was just what Jaime Garcia needed to refocus.
The St. Louis Cardinals knocked out Bronson Arroyo in the fifth inning and their rookie left-hander overcame a shaky start in a 12-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, forging a first-place tie in the NL Central.
``I think in the first inning, sometimes it's kind of like a shaky one for me because I'm learning,' Garcia said. ``After the delay I was able to stay focused, stay in the game mentally and physically.'
Pujols extended his streak of reaching base to nine straight plate appearances with two intentional walks and a single his first three at_bats. He finally made an out in the fifth inning, hitting into a double play. Pujols added an RBI single in a five-run sixth, one day after hitting three homers at Chicago.
Matt Holliday's two-run double in the fourth was the go-ahead hit. He's 9 for 18 the last five games.
``You put together at_bats where even if you get behind you're still able to put the ball on the barrel, you start to feel like you can handle most of the pitches, it's a good feeling,' Holliday said. ``When Albert's hot, he's the best player ever.'
Arroyo (5-3) had been 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA in his previous six outings.
Jonny Gomes' two-run single in the first ended a run of 19 scoreless innings at home to start the season by Garcia, a 23-year-old left-hander who began the year as the lone rookie in the rotation but now is one of three due to injuries. Garcia (5-2) benefited from an offense that mustered only six runs in his previous four starts. The Cardinals had a season-high for runs and hits (16) while improving to 16-8 at home.
``Well, let me see, we've got Johnny Cueto tomorrow and he's really good, so I'd be a fool to say that we're really hot because good pitching shuts you down,' manager Tony La Russa said. ``I'll tell you, Cincinnati is a legitimate club.'
Arroyo coughed up a 3-1 lead and failed to last six innings for only the second time. He threw a complete game to beat the Cardinals on May 16 in Cincinnati, but didn't blame the delay after giving up season highs for walks (five) and hits (10).
``I felt good coming back,' Arroyo said. ``It didn't affect me. I didn't have the greatest command the whole day.'
Arroyo retired the first two hitters in the fourth before walking Garcia, and the next four Cardinals reached base in a three-run rally for a 4-3 lead. Felipe Lopez' two-run double in the fifth made it 7-3 and chased Arroyo.
``Walks,' manager Dusty Baker said. ``Way too many walks.'
The Reds had won four of their previous five and were in first place alone for five straight days, a season high. Cincinnati starters had been 10-0 with a 2.55 in the previous 16 games, the longest winning streak for the staff since 1985.
Garcia allowed only an unearned run on four hits the next five innings, and singled twice, walked and scored twice, doubling his season hit total after a 2-for-18 start. Garcia is 2-0 in his last four starts, both wins over the Reds, and leads NL rookies in victories and strikeouts (51) while holding left-handed hitters to a .103 average (4 for 39).
NOTES: The Reds were 18-12 in May, matching their best win total for the month since going 18-11 in 2004. ... Joey Votto (sore neck) missed his sixth straight start but took batting practice and could play Tuesday. Miguel Cairo has started all six games, going 12 for 28 (.429) with two homers. ``I feel like I'm headed in the right direction,' Votto said. ... Cardinals RHP Kyle Lohse (forearm surgery) will have a soft cast removed on Friday. He's expected to miss at least six weeks. ... Pujols' total of 1,151 RBIs is the fourth best total in major league history for the first 10 seasons, three better than Lou Gehrig. He trails only Al Simmons (1,278), Joe Dimaggio (1,277) and Ted Williams (1,261).
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved