St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - The Cardinals' magic number is down to 1 after St. Louis slugged three home runs in an 8-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.
Tony Cruz and Kolten Wong hit early homers to give Michael Wacha a 5-0 cushion, and Randal Grichuk homered for the second straight day later in the contest to help the NL Central leaders pull away.
"I felt a lot better today," said Wacha. "I felt like it was a step in the right direction for sure."
Wacha gave up two runs in 4 2/3 innings in his first start since Sept. 9 and third since spending nearly three months on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. Jason Motte (1-0) finished the fifth inning to pick up the win.
The Cardinals can clinch a playoff spot with a win in tomorrow's series finale or a Milwaukee loss.
Zack Cozart went deep and Kris Negron doubled twice for the Reds, who lost their sixth straight game. Mike Leake (11-13) was the latest victim after getting roughed up for six runs -- five earned -- in five innings.
"It's been a year to forget," said Leake. "You just have to play hard over these next seven games."
After Leake faced the minimum in the first inning, he unraveled in the second. Jhonny Peralta led off with a single and Leake was temporarily out of trouble when Oscar Taveras grounded into a double play. Yadier Molina kept the inning alive with a double to right, Daniel Descalso walked and Cruz lifted a three- run homer to left field.
Jon Jay was hit by a pitch to start the home third, and Wong followed with a shot to right to make it 5-0. Leake had the count 0-2, but left a fastball over the plate to the second baseman, who hit his 12th of the season.
Cincinnati began chipping away, with Brandon Phillips driving in a run with an RBI single in the fourth and Negron doubling home Cozart in the fifth.
The Cards kept their foot on the gas, however, with Wong drawing a two-out walk in the fifth inning and scoring when Matt Holliday's single to right trickled past Jay Bruce all the way to the wall.
Bruce hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth and Grichuk answered, crushing a no-doubter to left-center.
Cozart made it 7-4 with his solo shot an inning later but again St. Louis answered. Peralta replaced Wong on base after a fielder's choice, stole second and easily scored when Grichuk's bloop to right-center confused the Reds and landed between a trio of fielders.
St. Louis starters had allowed one earned run or less in eight straight starts ... Leake fell to 2-2 against the Cardinals this season ... The Reds have dropped 17 of 19 on the road.