Final

Series: Game 2 of 2

Cincinnati won 2-0

Game 1: Monday, May 1
St. Louis1Final
Cincinnati6
Game 2: Tuesday, May 2
St. Louis2Final
Cincinnati3

Cardinals 2

(17-10, 5-6 away)

Reds 3

(19-8, 10-4 home)

    12:35 PM ET, May 2, 2006

    Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio 

    123456789 R H E
    STL 101000000 2 10 0
    CIN 000002001 3 9 0

    W: T. Coffey (2-0)

    L: B. Falkenborg (0-1)

    Reds move to season-high 11 games over .500

    CINCINNATI (AP) -- Javier Valentin watched the ball leave his bat and fly right toward second baseman Aaron Miles, giving the pinch-hitter a momentary fright.

    The way the Cincinnati Reds are playing, he should have known better.

    Valentin's liner cleared the drawn-in infield and drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday, sending the Reds to a 3-2 victory and a two-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.

    "It was going straight to the second baseman," Valentin said, amazed by what had happened. "Then it went like this."

    Valentin made a curve with his hand, simulating the way the ball dodged Miles' glove by mere inches before landing safely on the outfield grass.

    "It found a hole," Valentin said. "It's good enough for me."

    Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion added solo homers for the Reds (19-8), who overtook the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox for best record in the majors.

    "We can play with anybody," Valentin said. "If we continue to play the way we're playing now, we're going to be there."

    He meant the playoffs, of course, a place the Reds haven't been in 11 years. They haven't even had a winning record the last five years, their deepest such slump in a half-century.

    It's going to take a lot more to get them back to the postseason -- the rotation is still a concern, and the bullpen is still inconsistent. But by taking two of three from the Astros and then the two-game series from St. Louis, the Reds felt a little confidence coming on.

    "When you face the two best teams in the division, it means a lot to win four out of five," manager Jerry Narron said.

    Austin Kearns started the winning rally with a leadoff single off Brian Falkenborg (0-1), who was called up from Triple-A Memphis before the game. The right-hander hit Brandon Phillips with his next pitch.

    After Jason LaRue's sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, Valentin took two pitches in the dirt, then lined the game-ending single, raising his fist as he headed for first. Teammates pounded on him shortly after he touched the base.

    Todd Coffey (2-0) struck out John Gall with two runners aboard in the ninth to keep it tied at 2.

    The Cardinals' starting lineup was missing Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds. Pujols, who leads the majors with 14 homers and 32 RBI, irritated his back on a defensive play last week and got a day of rest -- his first this season.

    Edmonds missed four starts last month because of a sore shoulder and hasn't done much at the plate. He pinch-hit in the seventh against Rick White with two runners aboard and flied out, dropping his average to .208.

    The scaled-down lineup was a huge benefit for left-hander Dave Williams, who has been the Reds' least-effective starter. Williams, obtained from Pittsburgh in the offseason trade for Sean Casey, brought a gaudy 9.53 ERA into the game.

    His toughest out on the Cardinals? Pujols is 7-for-19 off the left-hander with three homers.

    "If he wants to take his day off the day I pitch, I'm fine with that," Williams said.

    It didn't appear to matter at the outset. David Eckstein and Gall opened the game with singles, and Scott Spiezio's single made it 1-0.

    Juan Encarnacion homered in the third, his third homer in three games, for a 2-0 lead. Williams then settled in and didn't give up another run in his 6 2-3 innings.

    Right-hander Sidney Ponson blanked the NL's highest-scoring offense -- six runs per game -- until Dunn hit a solo homer off the right-field foul screen in the sixth and Edwin Encarnacion followed with a tying homer.

    It was a familiar script for Ponson, who blanked the Nationals last Thursday before giving up a pair of seventh-inning runs in a 6-2 win.

    "Like I said after my last start, it's how you finish," Ponson said. "And I didn't finish good. I allowed two home runs that cost us the game."

    Game notes


    The Cardinals optioned OF Skip Schumaker to Memphis. ... C Yadier Molina snapped an 0-for-16 slump with a sixth-inning single. ... Molina also picked Ryan Freel off first base. He has picked four Reds off first base in the last two seasons. ... The Reds put OF Cody Ross on the 15-day DL with a bruised finger. OF Chris Denorfia was called up from Triple-A Louisville. ... Ken Griffey Jr. will stay in Cincinnati while the Reds travel to Colorado for a two-game series. He's eligible to come off the disabled list, but hasn't fully recovered from an inflamed tendon behind his right knee.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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