Monday, September 22, 2014
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Cardinals fall to Reds after clinching playoff berth

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[September 22, 2014]  ST. LOUIS -- For the fourth consecutive year, St. Louis is heading to the postseason.

However, the Cardinals missed a chance Sunday night to reduce their magic number for a second straight National League Central title.

Cincinnati tied a season high with four homers, including two from right fielder Jay Bruce, and the Reds spoiled St. Louis' regular-season home finale with a 7-2 win at sold-out Busch Stadium.

Pittsburgh's 1-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers earlier Sunday assured the Cardinals (87-69) of at least a wild-card berth. However, when St. Louis lost, the Pirates pulled with 2 1/2 games of the Cardinals in the NL Central.

"It's nice to know that we'll play baseball past 162 games," third baseman Daniel Descalso said. "Now we have to take care of business and win the division."

The Reds (72-84) kept the Cardinals' magic number at five with power and pitching. Bruce cracked solo homers in the fourth and eighth for the 15th multi-homer game of his career, while third baseman Todd Frazier snapped a 1-1 tie in the sixth with his 27th homer, a solo blast to left.

Catcher Devin Mesoraco supplied the killing blow, jacking a three-run homer to left off reliever Sam Tuivailala in the eighth for a 6-2 lead. It was Mesoraco's 24th homer of the year and his 23rd as a catcher, the most for a Cincinnati catcher since Johnny Bench belted 23 in 1980.

It was just the third time this year the Reds boomed four homers in a game.

"Those were impactful homers," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "They weren't the homers that you hit when you're down 7-1 and they don't really mean much. They had good timing tonight."

Alfredo Simon (15-10) added to his career-high win total by working six innings, allowing seven hits and two runs. Simon, who walked two and fanned three, only won 17 games in his first 177 major league games, spread out over six years.

"It's big for me to get number 15," he said. "I had a leg cramp, but I kept fighting. My two-seam (fastball) was good. I kept the ball down."

First baseman Xavier Scruggs reached Simon for an RBI single in the fifth to tie the game at 1, and right fielder Randal Grichuk doubled home catcher Yadier Molina in the sixth to chop the Reds' lead to 3-2.

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However, that was it for the Cardinals, which finished 7-2 on their last homestand and will try to clinch the division title on the road against the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks. They may have to do it short-handed -- at least at the beginning.

Manager Mike Matheny estimated that "north of 10 players" weren't available because of a stomach virus, including third baseman Matt Carpenter and first baseman Matt Adams. Matheny hinted that some players might not fly with the team to Chicago on Sunday night.

"We've got to try to get everyone healthy as soon as possible," Descalso said. "I wish they weren't sick, but things happen. No matter who's in the lineup, they expect you to do something positive."

Lance Lynn (15-10) took the loss despite fanning nine and walking two over six innings. He allowed four hits and three runs.

Bruce collected half of the Reds' six hits. Descalso and center fielder Jon Jay each had two of the Cardinals' eight hits.

NOTES: The crowd of 45,747 was St. Louis' 52nd sellout of the year. The Cardinals drew 3,540,649 over 81 home dates, the second-highest total in franchise history. ... Cincinnati 1B Joey Votto (left quadriceps) took batting practice and ran the bases during the weekend, but manager Bryan Price wasn't sure Votto would be ready to play in the season's last week. Votto has been sidelined since July 8. ... Cardinals manager Mike Matheny became the first manager in franchise history to guide his team to the playoffs in each of the first three seasons.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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