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ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 7: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals scores a run against Brayan Pena #29 of the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning during the home opener at Busch Stadium on April 7, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- The Reds would have been celebrating Zack Cozart's and Billy Hamilton's first hits of the season and a most unlikely win if they had managed to finish off a ninth-inning rally Monday night.
The Cardinals led 5-1 when closer Trevor Rosenthal took the mound, and with the Reds struggling to find any offense – they scored just 15 runs in their first six games – nobody could have anticipated what happened next.
Walks by Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick and singles by Todd Frazier and Cozart scored one run and left the bases loaded with none out.
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The Reds actually had the tying run on first.
But before you could say, "Is this really happening?", it was over.
Brayan Pena, who was 3-for-3 with two doubles, struck out, and pinch-hitter Neftali Soto hit a sac fly. Then Hamilton, who had a first-inning double, flied to center to end it.
"Right now, almost collectively, we've struggled to do anything with guys in scoring position," manager Bryan Price said. "But that'll change. It's tough to sit through it."
If Price considered a pinch-hitter for his lead-off hitter, he didn't have many options: utility infielder Ramon Santiago and catcher Devin Mesoraco were the only position players available. Santiago is 0-for-4 and Mesoraco just came off the disabled list.
Hamilton left five runners on base, but it wasn't his fault alone that the Reds dropped to 2-5.
Except for Cozart's single (breaking his 0-for-22), Soto's sac fly and Roger Bernadina's fifth-inning double, the Reds continued to miss scoring chances:
> They got their leadoff batter on base in the first through fourth innings and couldn't score.
➢ After Hamilton doubled to lead off the game (snapping his 0-for-12), Brandon Phillips bunted Hamilton to third. But Joey Votto bounced to first and Hamilton got caught in a rundown.
➢ In the third, Pena's double and pitcher Tony Cingrani's single put runners on first and third with none out.
But Hamilton popped out to short and Phillips grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.
> The Reds' big three – Votto, Phillips and Bruce – went 0-for-9.
To make matters worse, the Reds had to suffer again at the hands of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
After spoiling Reds Opening Day last week with a homer in a 1-0 St. Louis win, Molina hit a three-run double off Cingrani in the first inning Monday on Opening Day in St. Louis.
Cingrani pitched three hitless innings after that and made an early exit. He walked four and struck out five.
"I didn't have my fastball, so what are you going to do? I just tried to battle," Cingrani said. "One bad pitch and it cleared the bases."
Pena said he wasn't trying to make excuses but he thought Cingrani was bothered by the elements.
"The baseball was slippery. He couldn't grab his breaking ball the way he wanted," Pena said.
Cardinals starter Michael Wacha gave up seven hits in six innings and said he fed off the SRO crowd of 47,492.
The fans braved daylong rain to greet the National League champions and take a look at the new Ballpark Village. Hundreds milled about the attached complex, which features five sports bars and rooftop seating.
"Huge crowd out there, a lot of energy," Wacha said. "I don't know who wouldn't thrive off those kind of situations."
The Cardinals added two runs in the seventh off reliever Todd Bell on an RBI double by Matt Holliday and a run-scoring single by Allen Craig.
It was the Cardinals' third victory over the Reds in four games spanning just eight days. St. Louis improved to 4-3.
NOTES: Lance Lynn (1-0, 5.40 ERA) opposes Homer Bailey (0-1, 8.31) Tuesday ... The Reds anticipate activating reliever Jonathan Broxton (forearm) from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. The team held off making the move Monday to give Broxton two days off after pitching on consecutive days.