ST. LOUIS -- A six-game winning streak built mostly against their biggest competition has the surprising Cincinnati Reds only a game back in the NL Central.
"I think a lot of people were expecting us probably to get buried on this road trip," manager Jerry Narron said. "I think we're going to show people we're not going to go away easy."
Lopez hit his sixth homer in the first off Chris Carpenter for a two-day cycle after hitting a double, triple and single in his last three at-bats on Monday.
"I thought about it before my next at-bat," Lopez said. "I did it."
The Reds matched their season-best winning streak while guaranteeing St. Louis, which has lost four of five overall, its second straight home series loss after a 9-0 start at new Busch Stadium.
Before coming to St. Louis, the Reds swept a three-game series at Houston. They're 6-2 on the trip with one game to go.
Scott Rolen had two hits for the Cardinals, who are 1-2 since Albert Pujols went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle on his right side. They scored 16 runs the first two games before getting shut down by Milton (4-2), Chris Hammond and Rick White, who combined on a five-hitter.
St. Louis is 14-16 against the NL Central after a 51-29 showing last season, and 7-14 against the Reds, Cubs and Astros after getting shut out for the second time. Both of the shutouts have come against the Reds, and both times Carpenter (4-3) was on the short end.
Carpenter, activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day after missing two starts with bursitis in his back, labored through five innings for the Cardinals. He allowed three runs and nine hits with five strikeouts and two walks in his first appearance since May 19.
"I thought I was OK," Carpenter said. "I just needed to get back out there and not feel anything."
Milton baffled the Cardinals with fastballs and changeups, allowing five hits with three strikeouts and no walks to win his second straight start. He's given up three runs in 22 2/3 innings in his last three outings, lowering his ERA to 4.14.
"It's a good feeling," Milton said. "I'm pitching well and hopefully I stay on this roll. The team's playing well and it's a lot of fun."
"I think every time we were looking for a fastball he threw a changeup, and every time we were looking for a changeup, he threw a fastball," Molina said. "He's a great pitcher, one of the best in the National League."
Ken Griffey Jr., who hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth off Jason Isringhausen on Monday, had a pair of singles and three walks. He is 16-for-34 on the first eight games of the Reds' nine-game trip with four homers and eight RBI.
Hancock was released by the Reds in February after reporting to spring training overweight.
"That plays into it a little bit," Hancock said. "But it doesn't matter if it's them or the Augusta Green Jackets."
The Reds scored two runs in the ninth on RBI doubles by Dunn and Hatteberg.
- Griffey presented the Reds' lineup card to umpires before the game.
- Griffey singled off Edmonds' glove at 1B in his 8,000th career at-bat in the third.
- Scott Spiezio, who missed the previous seven games with an upper respiratory infection, struck out as a pinch-hitter in the fifth.
- Encarnacion was hitless in three at-bats against Milton and is 3-for-35 in his career.
- The Reds are 5-2 against the Cardinals this season, although they're 15-27 against them the last three seasons overall.
- Rolen is 18-for-44 (.409) with two homers during an 11-game hitting streak.
- 3B Edwin Encarnacion has a mildly sprained left ankle, rolling when he was running the bases in the third. Narron said he's day to day.