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Cards hand Reds 81st loss, bounce them from wild-card hunt

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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CINCINNATI -- Jason Marquis made another solid pitch to join the St. Louis Cardinals' playoff rotation.

The resurgent right-hander threw seven solid innings, and homers by David Eckstein and So Taguchi powered the Cardinals to their 96th victory Wednesday night, 5-1 over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Cardinals clinched the NL Central title over the weekend, giving themselves two weeks to get ready for the playoffs and another shot at the World Series. They were swept by Boston last October.

The Cardinals are trying for their first back-to-back 100-victory seasons since they had three straight in 1942-44. While they count down to 100, manager Tony La Russa is trying to figure out which starters will stay in a condensed playoff rotation.

"I feel I could help this team in that role," Marquis said. "If not, so be it."

Marquis (13-14) has earned consideration with his late-season upturn. He lost seven consecutive starts from July 21 to Aug. 23, but has won four of his last five with excellent control -- only two walks in 39 innings.

On Wednesday, he shut out the Reds until Edwin Encarnacion homered in the seventh. The right-hander gave up eight hits and one walk, throwing 109 pitches overall.

"In my last five starts, I've gotten back to my game plan," he said. "I attack the strike zone, get ahead early and let my defense make plays."

Asked if Marquis could stay in the playoff rotation, La Russa said, "There's a chance. Let's just say he'll be considered."

The Reds' 81st loss eliminated them from wild-card contention and guaranteed a fifth straight season without a winning record, their longest such stretch since 1945-55. Their rotation has been one of the NL's worst, keeping them in their rut.

By contrast, the Cardinals' rotation has 80 wins, by far the most in the majors and four more than last season.

"Every one of their pitchers has got good late movement, cuts the ball or sinks it, and has command," Reds interim manager Jerry Narron said. "That's why they're the best pitching staff in the league."

Albert Pujols, the heart of the Cardinals' dangerous lineup, had three hits and gave teammates a scare when he pulled up while running out a fifth-inning double. Pujols waved off La Russa and a trainer while hunched over at second base, and played the rest of the game.

"Albert rolled his ankle," La Russa said. "He's fine."

Pujols leads the league in runs and multihit games, and tops the Cardinals with 39 homers and 109 RBI. He went 3-for-4 on Wednesday, raising his average to .337. Pujols started the day second to Chicago's Derrek Lee for the NL batting lead.

His right foot slipped when he rounded first base on his fifth-inning double off Ramon Ortiz (9-11). Pujols then hopped twice on his left leg while making his way to second base, but didn't want to leave the game even though the Cardinals have clinched a playoff spot.

"There will be no letup," Eckstein said. "We have a week and a half left. We're going to play every game hard, as you can tell by the last two nights."

Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek was back in the lineup and went 0-for-4, one day after he twisted his right ankle in a collision at first base.

Eckstein hit a two-run homer in the second inning, matching his career high with eight for the season. Taguchi led off the fourth with his eighth homer, putting the Cardinals up 5-0.

Ortiz lasted only five innings, giving up 10 hits. Despite a groin injury that sidelined him early in the season, Ortiz has given up 30 homers, fifth-most in the NL. Teammate Eric Milton has allowed 40, the most in the majors.

"I threw a couple of bad pitches tonight, but I threw a lot of good pitches and they hit them," Ortiz said.

Notes

Eckstein also hit eight homers in 2002 with the Angels. ... Marquis had an infield single, his career-high 27th hit of the season. ... La Russa plans to play OF Larry Walker often next week. Walker missed 26 games because of a herniated disk in his neck before returning on Aug. 20. He had an RBI double in his first at-bat Wednesday. ... Reds RHP Paul Wilson plans to start throwing in November. Wilson had surgery on June 17 to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum. ... Ken Griffey Jr. missed his 15th game with a sprained right foot.

 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Players of the Game
St. Louis

D. Eckstein
AB 5
R 1
H 3
HR 1
RBI 2
St. Louis

J. Marquis
IP 7.0
H 8
ER 1
BB 1
K 3
 
St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS5132002 .291
Jim Edmonds, CF5000014 .257
Albert Pujols, 1B4130010 .337
Larry Walker, RF4111002 .278
Abraham Nunez, 3B4011012 .290
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B4000023 .291
So Taguchi, LF4221000 .293
Yadier Molina, C4010001 .261
Jason Marquis, P3010001 .321
    Randy Flores, P0000000 .000
    Julian Tavarez, P0000000 .000
   a- John Gall, PH1000000 .242
    Jason Isringhausen, P0000000 .000
Totals3851250515 
a-grounded out for Tavarez in the 9th
Batting
2B - David Eckstein (25, Ortiz), Albert Pujols 2 (37, Ortiz, Ortiz), Larry Walker (19, Ortiz)
HR - David Eckstein (8, Ortiz), So Taguchi (8, Ortiz)
RBI - David Eckstein 2 (58), Larry Walker (49), Abraham Nunez (43), So Taguchi (49)
2-OUT RBI - David Eckstein 2 (33), Larry Walker (22), Abraham Nunez (16)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Grudzielanek-Eckstein-Pujols
St. Louis Cardinals
Jason Marquis (W,13-14) 7811131 4.03
Randy Flores 0.1000010 3.69
Julian Tavarez 0.2000000 3.10
Jason Isringhausen 1100010 2.17
Pitches-Strikes - Jason Marquis 109-69, Randy Flores 4-3, Julian Tavarez 4-2, Jason Isringhausen 18-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jason Marquis 10-7, Julian Tavarez 1-1, Jason Isringhausen 1-1
Batters Faced - Jason Marquis 29, Randy Flores 1, Julian Tavarez 2, Jason Isringhausen 4
Cincinnati Reds
Ryan Freel, LF4010010 .272
Felipe Lopez, SS4010001 .285
Adam Dunn, 1B4000012 .247
Rich Aurilia, 2B4010000 .282
Javier Valentin, C4000001 .289
Austin Kearns, RF3020110 .241
Wily Mo Pena, CF4030011 .262
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B4111015 .225
Ramon Ortiz, P1000000 .080
   a- Aaron Holbert, PH1000000 .250
    Joe Valentine, P0000000 .000
    Allan Simpson, P0000000 .000
   b- Chris Denorfia, PH1000000 .316
    Josh Hancock, P0000000 .000
   c- Jacob Cruz, PH1000001 .250
Totals351911511 
a-grounded out for Ortiz in the 5th
b-grounded out for Simpson in the 7th
c-hit into fielder's choice for Hancock in the 9th
Batting
2B - Wily Mo Pena (17, Marquis)
HR - Edwin Encarnacion (7, Marquis)
RBI - Edwin Encarnacion (21)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - F. Lopez-Dunn
E - Adam Dunn (7, )
Cincinnati Reds
Ramon Ortiz (L,9-11) 51055022 5.11
Joe Valentine 1200010 9.00
Allan Simpson 1000020 12.46
Josh Hancock 2000000 1.86
Pitches-Strikes - Ramon Ortiz 76-50, Joe Valentine 20-13, Allan Simpson 15-9, Josh Hancock 16-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ramon Ortiz 8-4, Allan Simpson 1-0, Josh Hancock 4-2
Batters Faced - Ramon Ortiz 24, Joe Valentine 5, Allan Simpson 3, Josh Hancock 6
Game Information
Attendance - 16784
Game Time - 2:26
Temperature - 76
Umpires - Home - Greg Gibson, First Base - Tom Hallion, Second Base - Chris Guccione, Third Base - Angel A. Hernandez