Reds pad NL Central lead to eight games with win over Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Cincinnati rookie Travis Wood sported a new look Saturday. The long locks were gone, replaced with a shorter, more military-style haircut.

His strong outing on the mound was the perfect match for his more clean-cut appearance.

Wood pitched seven efficient innings and hit his first career homer to lead the Reds to a 6-1 win against Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I just worked hard and came out with a mindset that I wasn't going to let them beat me," Wood said.

Cincinnati bounced back from Friday night's 3-2 loss in the series opener with its seventh victory in nine games, restoring its eight-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central.

Wood (5-2) allowed an unearned run and five hits. He also struck out three and walked two.

The left-hander was 0-1 with a 10.00 ERA in his previous two starts, allowing 17 hits in nine innings.

"Just a spur of the moment kind of thing," he said of the haircut. "I felt like I just needed to get back in gear."

Wainwright (17-10) pitched five innings for the Cardinals, yielding five runs, two earned, and seven hits. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 4.88 ERA in his last four starts.

"I don't like losing one game, much less four in a row," he said. "I won't lose again."

Once automatic at home, Wainwright is 1-2 in his last four starts at Busch Stadium after opening the season with 10 consecutive victories at St. Louis' ballpark.

The Reds scored three unearned runs after St. Louis second baseman Aaron Miles booted a potential double-play grounder with one out in the first. Ramon Hernandez drove in Orlando Cabrera with a bases-loaded grounder and Jonny Gomes added a two-run double.

Wood connected with two out in the fourth and Joey Votto singled in a run in the ninth to run his NL-best total to 98 RBIs. Votto finished with two hits.

Cincinnati has won 15 of its last 20 games since dropping three in a row to St. Louis in early August.

"We haven't thought about that big series, we haven't thought about magic numbers," Gomes said. "The second half of the season, we've kept our heads down and focused on the game at hand."

St. Louis scored its only run in the first when Jon Jay hit a one-out single, went to third on Wood's errant pickoff attempt and scored on Matt Holliday's two-out RBI single.

Wood responded by retiring 12 of the next 13 batters.

"He had better stuff, he was using the outside of the plate more," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He pitched a heck of a ballgame."

Wood got plenty of help from his bullpen. Rookie left-hander Aroldis Chapman, making his third major league appearance, worked the eighth, getting Albert Pujols to bounce into the inning-ending double play after walking Jay with one down.

Chapman registered as high as 103 mph on the radar gun.

"He's a guy that has a lot of promise," Pujols said. "If he stays healthy, he's going to have a great career."

Pujols, who hit .379 in August, broke out of a career-worst 0-for-18 slump with a single in the sixth inning. He went hitless in 17 at-bats from July 4-7, 2001, in his rookie season.

Game notes
St. Louis had won the previous five games between the teams. ... Wainwright fell to 9-3 in day games this season. ... Cabrera made his first start since August 2. He had been on the DL with a strained left oblique muscle. ... Cincinnati OF Yonder Alonso got his first major league hit with a pinch-hit double leading off the ninth. ... Reds OF Jay Bruce was held out of the lineup for the fourth game in a row with soreness in his right side. ... Cincinnati is 30-15 since the All-Star break. ... The Reds have been in first place in the NL Central for the last 21 days. ... Cincinnati, San Diego and the New York Yankees are the only teams to fashion winning records each of the first five months of the season.