Cardinals close in on top spot after Reds rout

CINCINNATI, Ohio (Reuters) - The St. Louis Cardinals, aided by a grand slam from Skip Schumaker, cut Cincinnati's lead in the National League Central division to one game after a lopsided win over the Reds on Monday.

Cardinals second baseman Schumaker belted the feat in a seven-run fourth inning that pushed St. Louis to a 7-3 win over the team they have been battling with for top spot in the division.

Schumaker's drive to straight away center field was his first career grand slam and gave his team a victory in the opener of an important three-game stretch against Cincinnati.

"Every series is big but this is a little more important because it's against a first-place team," Schumaker told reporters.

"As (our manager) has been saying since spring training, we want to win series. Having (Chris Carpenter) on the mound we liked our chances."

St. Louis starter Carpenter allowed two runs in the seventh after cruising through six scoreless innings to improve to 13-3 on the season while the Cardinals moved to 62-49.

The streaking Reds (64-49) had won four straight entering the night but rookie starter Mike Leake was rocked in the fourth, where he was chased from the game having allowed seven runs and nine hits.

St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols went 2-for-4 with an RBI single that gave the Cardinals a 7-0 advantage.

Ramon Hernandez went 3-for-4 with a home run in the ninth for the Reds.

"These guys over there are in the situation they are for a good reason," Carpenter said. "It's definitely a challenge but every challenge is a good challenge."

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Edited by Patrick Johnston)