MONTERREY, Mexico -- The Reds pitching, which stepped up during a four-game winning streak last week, took a step back Sunday.
The Cardinals hit four home runs off starter Anthony DeSclafani and the bullpen and took a 9-5 win to split their two-game series at the Estadio de Beisbol de Monterrey.
Jesse Winker hit his fourth homer in five games and Yasiel Puig hit his first homer as a Red, but to no avail.
The teams scored in bunches, with the Cardinals (9-6) plating four in the first inning off DeSclafani on a three-run blast by Marcell Ozuna and a solo shot by Tyler O’Neill. DeSclafani, with a 7.43 ERA, has been the least effective of the Reds starters so far.
The Reds (5-9) answered with four runs in the fifth thanks to Winker’s three-run blast off Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas and Michael Lorenzen’s RBI double.
But the Cardinals added a five-spot in the seventh. Amir Garrett (1-1), the team’s most reliable reliever in the early going, gave up a solo shot to Matt Carpenter and Ozuna followed with another off Jared Hughes. Hughes walked Kolten Wong with the bases loaded and gave up Jose Martinez’s two-run single. Hughes’ ERA ballooned to 8.10 after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning.
''Amir has been doing a great job and he has been pitching very well. It was a huge hit in the game for them.'' Reds manager David Bell said. “After that, Jared came in to finish the right-handers and it just did not work out today.''
Puig homered in the eighth to make it 9-5 and the Reds loaded the bases, but Jordan Hicks retired pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer on a grounder to escape. Hicks closed for this third save. John Gant (3-0) pitched one inning.
The stadium didn't sell out for either game, but on both days fans were noisy throughout the game, and the PA system blasted Latin music at every opportunity, creating a fiesta-like atmosphere.
Puig and Reds teammate Joey Votto tried to appease the local crowds by changing their walk-up songs. Puig dropped ''This Girl'' by Kungs vs Cookin' on 3 Burners for ''El Rey'' by Mexican singer Vicente Fernandez, while Votto skipped ''Paint It Black'' from the Rolling Stones and instead used ''Como la Flor'' by Selena.
Puig, hitting .163 with one homer and six RBI, makes his return to Dodger Stadium Monday when the Reds open a three-game series. Luis Castillo (1-1, 0.92 ERA) starts for the Reds. He struck out at least eight and given up no more than two hits in each of his first three starts this year.