Cards aim to bounce back in Cincinnati

Though building a comfortable lead for the National League's second wild card spot, the Cincinnati Reds haven't given up on their chase for a division title.

The Reds look to make up more ground on Tuesday night when they resume a four- game series with the second-place St. Louis Cardinals.

Cincinnati came into Monday's opener having lost five of its previous seven, but opened up its 10-game homestand with a 7-2 victory. That increased the Reds' lead for the final playoff berth to seven games and also kept them 3 1/2 games behind first-place Pittsburgh, which won on Monday.

The Reds also pulled within 2 1/2 games of the Cardinals, who in turn fell a game behind the Pirates following their fourth loss in five games.

Cincinnati got to St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright for a second straight time on Monday. Wainwright surrendered a career-high nine runs over two innings last Wednesday versus the Reds in his shortest career start.

The Reds didn't take it any easier on him yesterday, touching Wainwright for six runs over six innings.

"He's searching and trying to figure out what it is," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said about Wainwright's struggles.

Given the early advantage, which included a two-run homer by Shin-Soo Choo, Mat Latos scattered four hits and two runs in his first complete game of the season. His 14th victory of the campaign also matched a career high.

Latos' lone hiccup came in the third, when Matt Carpenter doubled home Wainwright and scored on Matt Holliday's sacrifice fly.

"To be able to jump on (Wainwright) like that and take advantage of that was really helpful on my end as much as it was the team," said Latos, who retired 21 of the last 22 batters he faced.

Joey Votto also homered for the Reds.

Not only did the Cardinals lose the game, but catcher Yadier Molina left the game in the fifth inning due to left wrist soreness that has him day-to-day.

Molina leads the Cards with a .327 average, while Carlos Beltran is fourth at .310. The outfielder tops the club with 23 homers and hopes to return to the lineup tonight after sitting out his second game in a row on Monday because of lower back tightness.

Getting the start tonight for St. Louis will be Michael Wacha, who pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Wainwright last week versus the Reds. The righty fanned seven and gave up just three hits to leave his manager impressed.

"The way he threw the ball the other day -- it was not like we were doing tryout camp -- but he made it very obvious that he's the guy we want to see out there," Matheny told St. Louis' website of giving Wacha the start. "He looked great."

The 22-year-old was the 19th overall pick of the 2012 draft and will make his fifth career start and 11th appearance. He is 1-0 with a 4.37 ERA as a starter, his last coming on Aug. 10. Wacha pitched to a 2.53 ERA in his six relief appearances, striking out 19 over 10 2/3 innings.

Homer Bailey tries to extend his unbeaten streak to seven straight starts tonight for the Reds, having gone 4-0 with a 2.83 ERA since his last start on July 26.

Like Latos yesterday, Bailey pitched with a comfortable lead opposite of Wainwright last Wednesday. He did his part by scattering five hits and two walks over 7 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out seven.

"Usually, he's been our tough-luck guy, we haven't gotten him many runs," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Bailey.

The 27-year-old righty is 9-10 with a 3.55 ERA in 27 starts this season and had given up 11 runs over 10 1/3 frames in losing his first two starts this year to the Cardinals. He is now 4-9 with a 5.13 ERA in 16 meetings with them lifetime.

The Cardinals took two of three from the Reds to begin last week and have claimed 10 of the 16 meetings this year.