ST. LOUIS (AP) — Not even the hottest pitcher in the majors could stop the bleeding for the Reds Wednesday night.
The Cardinals beat up Johnny Cueto and ended his seven-game winning streak while sending the reeling Reds to their fifth straight loss, 7-3.
WATCH: Billy Hamilton's great play in center field:
Cueto (15-7) was off-kilter from the get-go and missed a chance to become the majors' first 16-game winner. He allowed five runs in five-plus innings.
"He just labored," manager Bryan Price said. "We've come to expect him to be great every time and today just wasn't one of those times."
Cueto had been the winning pitcher in the only two games the Reds have won in the past two weeks.
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Cueto had numerous mound conferences with catcher Brayan Pena and was pulled after walking Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn on four pitches to load the bases with none out in the sixth. It wasn't particularly hot, 86 degrees for the first pitch, but the right-hander said humidity took a toll.
"I'm used to pitching with long sleeves and it was so wet and my hand was getting really slippery," Cueto said through a translator. "I could not grip the ball the way I wanted."
Cueto had been 7-0 with a 2.24 ERA in his previous eight starts, including 3-0 this month. But he matched his shortest outing of the year and season high with four walks, plus hit two batters.
Facing Cueto definitely brought out the best in Lynn (14-8). He held the Reds to four singles over seven innings.
"You see all the leader boards and you see his name up at the top. I outpitched him tonight, so yeah," Lynn said.
The Reds' summer swoon - a 10-22 record since the All-Star break and 10 losses in their last 12 games - has taken them out of the playoff race.
At 61-66, the Reds are 6 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot with five teams ahead of them and 10 games behind the first-place Brewers in the NL Central.
The Cardinals have won eight of nine and swept the Reds at home for the first time since Sept. 26-28, 2008.
Jhonny Peralta hit a bases-clearing double for St. Louis and Jon Jay had three hits and scored twice,
Jay was plunked by a pitch for the sixth time in six games, He is batting .514 (18 for 35) during a 12-game hitting streak, and has been hit by a pitch a majors-leading 16 times.
Brandon Phillips got his first hit of the series, a single in the Reds' seventh, for the 1,500th of his career. Phillips returned to the lineup Monday after missing nearly six weeks with a torn thumb ligament.
Reds: RHP Carlos Contreras gave up two runs and got two outs in the eighth. He was taken out after a misstep on a pitch after play resumed, and Price had no immediate update after the game. ... Closer Aroldis Chapman missed the first two games with a sore left shoulder and played catch Wednesday.
Cardinals: C Yadier Molina, recovering from a torn ligament to his right thumb, took swings for the first time indoors. He's been throwing in pregame workouts for a few days.
Reds: Rookie LHP David Holmberg (0-0, 16.88) makes his second career start to open a four-game series Thursday at home against Atlanta.
Cardinals: After a day off, RHP Adam Wainwright (15-7, 2.40) will flip spots with Shelby Miller and start on regular rest Friday night at Philadelphia.