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Carpenter puts down Reds for 8th straight start to lead Cards into first-place tie

ST. LOUIS -- Eight straight times, Chris Carpenter has beaten the Cincinnati Reds. This time, they helped.

Carpenter allowed four hits in eight innings and benefited from the Reds' fielding and baserunning woes as the St. Louis Cardinals pulled into a first-place tie with Cincinnati in the NL Central with a 4-1 victory Wednesday night.

"They're a good team but I feel like we're better," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "This time we just beat ourselves instead of them beating us."

Matt Holliday homered and Skip Schumaker, Ryan Ludwick and Brendan Ryan all had two hits and an RBI to back Carpenter, who silenced the NL's top offense to help St. Louis take two of three. Holliday hit his sixth homer, and only second at home, leading off the seventh against Logan Ondrusek for a 4-1 lead.

"Big game," Carpenter said. "Big situation against a team that's playing real well."

Scott Rolen had an RBI single for the Reds, following a two-homer game. But he made a key mistake on the basepaths when he was struck by Jay Bruce's grounder, a ball that first baseman Albert Pujols had no chance at, with runners on first and third for the second out of the seventh.

"Obviously, it was a big one," Carpenter said. "It was fortunate for us, but some things happen in the game like that."

Reds manager Dusty Baker bemoaned Rolen's bad luck.

"He's such an excellent baserunner, and that's not going to happen very often," Baker said. "Follow the bouncing ball and tonight it bounced up and hit Scotty."

Carpenter (7-1) got another big out himself in the seventh, striking out Jonny Gomes for the second out. Gomes had entered the game with an NL-leading .459 average with runners in scoring position.

Gomes was shaky in the field, charging a ball in left field that sailed over his head for a gift RBI triple by Ryan in the fourth for the Cardinals' first run.

Carpenter has beaten Cincinnati three times this year and has a 1.09 ERA during the eight-game winning streak that dates to Aug. 15, 2006. He improved to 15-1 against the NL Central the last two years, retiring 13 straight in one stretch with four strikeouts and no walks.

"Whenever he's retired or pitches in the American League, then you can talk about his struggles or his success against a club," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "If you look at his record, he's been really special and tough against a lot of clubs."

Rookie Sam LeCure (1-1) allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings in his second career start, missing a chance to become the first Reds pitcher to win his first two outings since Larry Luebbers in 1993. LeCure, who's from Jefferson City, Mo., didn't think nerves were a factor.

"Once I got out on the mound I felt like everything was under control," LeCure said. "I made some pitches in some key situations and in other situations I didn't."

Kyle McClellan worked the ninth for his first save, and fifth of his career, a day after closer Ryan Franklin worked two innings in a one-run loss.

Holliday also walked twice for a two-day total of five, and is 13 for 25 (.520) with six RBIs and eight walks during a seven-game hitting streak.

Game notes
Reds RHP Homer Bailey (shoulder) is eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday and manager Dusty Baker says "Homer's optimistic all the time about getting back in it." ... St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford, the No. 1 pick of the draft, is scheduled to throw out the first pitch Friday before the Cardinals play Milwaukee. ... Cardinals IF Felipe Lopez felt fine a day after bruising his right thumb on a fielding error, but was not in the lineup. ... Cardinals RHP Adam Ottavino was available for bullpen duty if needed but remained on track to start Saturday. ... Cardinals RHP Brad Penny, on the DL with an upper back strain, has played light catch the last two days but there's no timetable for his return. He's eligible to be activated Sunday. ... Stadium personnel surrounded and tackled a young male who ran onto the field at the end of the fifth. ... Reds LHP Arthur Rhodes got three outs in the seventh and hasn't allowed a run in 20 2/3 innings, longest by a reliever in the majors this season.