CINCINNATI - Mat Latos threw a four-hitter to help the Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-2 in the opener of a crucial four-game home series Monday afternoon.
Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto hit home runs and the Reds had 12 hits to back Latos (14-5) in his first complete game of the season.
"We never could get that big of a rally started," said Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter, who had a double. "It helped that he was able to get a big lead early."
The Reds pounded Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (15-9) for the second straight game. Last week, the Reds tagged Wainwright for nine runs in a career-low two innings. They had his number again on Monday, piling up six runs and 10 hits in six innings.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing, but there's definitely more of an anxiety added when you have a guy like Wainwright," said Latos. "We were fortunate to be able to get to him today."
Choo had two hits, two RBI and scored two runs. Jay Bruce, Ryan Ludwick, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart each had two hits and drove in a run.
The third-place Reds now trail the second-place Cardinals by 2 1/2 games and the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates by 3 1/2. The Reds maintain a comfortable lead for the final NL wild-card spot.
Wainwright isn't sure what's going on with him and the Reds.
"The last time, it was a matter of me leaving too many ball in the middle of the plate," Wainwright said. "Today, they hit some good pitches. I feel very strong. I've had some good games against them in the past. It's a head-scratcher, to be honest with you."
"He's searching right now," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He doesn't have the same feel he had earlier. As he went on today, he got better. His breaking ball had more bite."
The last time the Cardinals visited Great American Ball Park, they won by scores of 13-3 and 15-2 during a one-sided series that left the Reds embarrassed. This one started much better for them.
Choo opened the first with a single and scored on Ludwick's two-out single. Ludwick missed more than three months with torn cartilage in his right shoulder, but the left fielder is starting to get his swing back in shape. Ludwick has driven in a run in each of his last four games.
Cozart singled home a run in the second, and Choo's two-run homer made it 4-0. Choo leads all major league leadoff hitters with 19 homers. He has three homers during a six-game hitting streak, which includes four multi-hit games.
Votto hit an up-and-away 1-2 pitch to the opposite field in left for his 21st homer in the fourth inning.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina came out of the game in the fifth inning because of a sore left wrist. He was activated off the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 15 after missing 14 games with a sore right knee.
"It's something he's had before, but we haven't heard much about it," Matheny said. "It popped up today."
NOTES: Cardinals RF Carlos Beltran's back was still sore on Monday, prompting Matheny to keep him out of the starting lineup for a second straight day as a precaution. "Instead of trying to push him through, we've tried to pay attention to how he feels," Matheny said. "That should pay dividends in the long run." ... St. Louis 1B Matt Adams extended his slump to 0 for 14. ... The Reds called up OF Billy Hamilton and INF Neftali Soto and activated C Corky Miller off the 15-day DL before the game. ... Homer Bailey (9-10) tries to extend his winning streak - 4-0 in his last six starts - against the Cardinals' Michael Wacha (2-0), who makes his fifth career start.
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