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Holliday's homer, Carpenter's arm help Cardinals beat Reds 4-2, take 2 of 3

Matt Holliday hit a go-ahead, three-run homer to back Chris Carpenter's latest dominant effort against Cincinnati, helping the St. Louis Cardinals take two of three from the NL Central-leading Reds with a 4-2 victory Sunday.

The Cardinals reduced the Reds' formidable lead to seven games with 28 games to go. The two teams are not scheduled to play again this season.

St. Louis had lost eight of nine overall going into the weekend. This was its first series win since Aug. 20-22 against San Francisco.

Homer Bailey (3-3) walked Albert Pujols intentionally in the sixth inning before giving up Holliday's two-out shot on a 1-2 hanging breaking ball. Holliday fouled off two pitches before hitting his 25th homer, topping last season's total and giving the Cardinals a 4-2 lead.

Holliday has conceded to pressing at times to justify his seven-year, $120 million contract, yet he leads the team with 43 two-out RBIs.

Carpenter (15-5) struck out a season-high 11 in 7 1-3 innings. He's 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA in five starts against the Reds this season and has a club-record 10-game winning streak against them dating to his last loss in June 2006.

The right-hander struck out five straight batters in the sixth and seventh and exceeded his previous season best of 10 strikeouts done twice in April. He had totaled 11 strikeouts in his previous four starts.

Carpenter has feasted on Central opponents, going 18-4 the last two seasons and 44-16 record over.

Bailey allowed four runs in six innings and fell to 1-4 with a 6.02 ERA against St. Louis. He had been 2-0 since coming off the 15-day disabled list from shoulder inflammation in mid-August.

The Reds had success against last year's Cy Young runner-up only in the fifth when Brandon Phillips hit a bloop double to set up Orlando Cabrera's two-run double.

The Cardinals also scored in the fifth when Colby Rasmus led off with a double and eventually scored on Pedro Feliz's groundout.

Ryan Franklin worked the ninth for his 24th save in 26 opportunities.

NOTES: Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto, who missed the series attending to a family emergency in the Dominican Republic, was supposed to meet the team at the St. Louis airport before flying to Colorado for a four-game series. ... Holliday leads the Cardinals with 41 multihit games, two more than Pujols. ... Carpenter has 15 career double-digit strikeout games. ... Reds OF Jay Bruce (right side) missed his fifth straight start. ... Feliz's fielding error at 3B on Phillips' grounder to start the game was his first in 16 games since joining the Cardinals.