ST. LOUIS -- Apparently, Justin Lehr is no fluke.
The Cincinnati Reds' 32-year-old journeyman fill-in worked into the seventh inning to win his second straight start in the third outing of his career, a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday.
He will get at least one more chance before Micah Owings comes off the 15-day disabled list.
"It's tough to take the kid out when he keeps pitching like that," manager Dusty Baker said. "He's battled to get to this point. He beat a very good Cub lineup and he also beat a very potent Cardinals lineup."
Alex Gonzalez matched his career high with four hits and Laynce Nix had a two-run double in a three-run first against stand-in starter Mitchell Boggs (1-1), helping end the NL Central leaders' four-game winning streak.
Francisco Cordero allowed a run and two hits in the ninth before earning his 25th save in 26 chances.
Cordero got Albert Pujols on a comebacker and Matt Holliday on a called third strike to escape with the tying run in scoring position.
"I had a little trouble breathing there in the ninth inning," Baker said with a chuckle. "We didn't play smart all the time, but we played hard."
Pujols hit his major league-leading 37th homer in the eighth, ending a 1-for-18 slump at home. Yadier Molina's RBI double in the eighth on a ball dropped by right fielder Chris Dickerson after a long run was his third hit and Holliday singled three times as the Cardinals finished with 15 hits.
Coming off a four-hit shutout over the Cubs in his second career start, Lehr (2-0) allowed one run and 11 hits -- all singles -- leaving after Brendan Ryan's leadoff single in the seventh.
"There was a good amount of baserunners, that's for sure," Lehr said. "A lot of small hits, but they never got the big hit.
"We scored some runs early so I was just like 'Don't beat myself. Whatever they get, make them earn it."'
The Cardinals had two hits in each of the first four innings, but were limited to Ryan Ludwick's third-inning RBI single while grounding into one double play and running into a second when the slow-footed Molina was an easy out trying to score on Skip Schumaker's flyout to medium left on Johnny Gomes' strong relay.
Lehr was recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 1 to replace Owings in the rotation. In five career appearances against the Cardinals, the first four in relief, he has limited them to one run in 11 innings.
The Reds jumped on Boggs, recalled from Triple-A Memphis to replace the injured Todd Wellemeyer, with three runs and four hits in the first. Dickerson and Gonzalez opened the game with singles and Gomes beat out an infield hit for an RBI.
Dickerson, activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day, tripled with one out in the second after rookie center fielder Colby Rasmus appeared to misjudge his fly to the warning track. Joey Votto drove him in with a one-out single for a 4-0 lead.
Boggs blamed himself for falling behind hitters in the early innings.
"I think it's being a little too fine, trying to be too perfect early in the count," Boggs said. "Next time I'll just try to force the issue a little bit earlier."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa didn't want to discuss whether Boggs would get another shot in the rotation.
"I've never had success looking ahead, you say something stupid you regret," La Russa said. "I don't think he had a great outing, but it could have been disastrous."
Shaquille O'Neal threw out the first pitch with Pujols on the receiving end, then watched the game from the third row behind home plate. The two are taping a Shaq Vs show on Thursday, a day off for the Cardinals. ... Reds OF Willy Taveras was not in the lineup a day after slamming face-first into the wall chasing after Holliday's triple, but entered in a double switch in the seventh. ... Gonzalez has six career four-hit games, the last on April 24, 2007, also at St. Louis. ... Votto is 4 for 32 with four RBI this month.