CINCINNATI – Johnny Cueto got the better of the St. Louis Cardinals team he kicked around the last time they met, taking a shutout into the eighth inning Saturday during Cincinnati's 7-3 victory that moved the Reds back into first place in the NL Central.
Ramon Hernandez hit solo homers on each of the first two pitches he saw from Kyle McClellan (5-1). Brandon Phillips drove in three runs for the Reds.
The defending NL Central champions moved into first place alone for the first time since April 18.
Cueto (2-0) and Phillips were the central figures in a brawl last Aug. 10 ignited by the second baseman's inflammatory comments. Cueto slashed two Cardinals with his cleats and got a seven-game suspension. He hadn't faced them since.
The spicy rematch was all Cueto, who didn't allow a Cardinal to reach second base until Matt Holliday doubled in the seventh. A pair of errors set up Jon Jay's three-run homer in the eighth. Cueto gave up three hits and fanned five in 7 2-3 innings.
Cueto also made the best play of the game, whirling his glove behind his back for a no-look stab at Albert Pujols' grounder up the middle in the seventh. That out brought a big smile to his face, and he patted his glove in response to a standing ovation from the 41,307 fans when he left the game in the eighth.
The last time Cueto faced the Cardinals, he got pinned against the backstop during the brawl and furiously kicked catcher Jason LaRue and pitcher Chris Carpenter, later saying he was only protecting himself. Cueto stayed in the game and lasted only 5 1-3 innings, giving up five runs in St. Louis' 8-4 win.
Phillips set off the brawl by calling the Cardinals whiners. He hit a solo homer, an RBI single and a sacrifice fly on Saturday.
The win represented a breakthrough for the Reds, who won the division last season despite going 6-12 against the Cardinals and dropping four of their five series. The Reds have won the first two games of the weekend series, leaving them 3-2 against St. Louis this season.
The Reds have won eight of 10 overall, buoyed by the return of starters Homer Bailey and Cueto. Both had been sidelined by shoulder problems since spring training.
Phillips got the Reds going by leading off the second with his fifth homer. He showing no extra emotion while rounding the bases quickly after ending the Cardinals' streak of eight games without allowing a homer.
Hernandez led off the third with a homer on the first pitch from McClellan. He did the same thing leading off the fifth, connecting on the first pitch for his ninth multihomer game.
McClellan planned to leave as soon as the game ended and return to Missouri, where his wife, Bridget, was scheduled to deliver the couple's first child on Sunday.
NOTES: The Reds honored former manager Sparky Anderson before the game, playing a tribute to their late skipper on the video board and giving away statues. ... Cardinals SS Ryan Theriot was back after missing two games with sore muscles in his right side. ... The Reds activated RH reliever Jose Arredondo and optioned RH Mike Leake to Triple-A Louisville. Arredondo hadn't pitched in the majors since having reconstructive elbow surgery on Feb. 2, 2010.