CINCINNATI — Jake Westbrook's sinker took too much of a dive.
The right-hander had trouble with walks on Saturday night, helping the Cincinnati Reds break out of their week-long offensive funk with an 8-3 victory that evened their series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Devin Mesoraco drove in three runs with a pair of homers, and the Reds got only their fourth win in 11 games against their NL Central rival. Cincinnati had scored fewer than four runs in each of their last nine games head-to-head.
Westbrook (7-6) and the bullpen couldn't keep it going.
"I couldn't finish off innings," Westbrook said. "I'd get a couple of quick outs and I couldn't put them away. That was a subpar performance for me. I felt like I pitched better today than in my last start. I was making decent pitches."
Just not enough of them, especially with two outs. Westbrook gave up five runs in five innings, all with two outs. He walked five batters and three of them scored.
"He had one of the best sinkers he's had this year," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was really diving. Walks seemed to hurt him, especially after two outs, but overall, his stuff was better than his line showed.
"A lot of times, the ball was moving too much. He had a good one today."
The loss knocked second-place St. Louis back to 1 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh. Cincinnati remained 5 1/2 out.
It was a significant win for Cincinnati, which has lost six of its last eight games overall to stay mired in third place.
"It's pretty big," left-hander Tony Cingrani said. "We've been on a pretty rough stretch."
And not just against St. Louis. The defending NL Central champions are mired in third place because their offense has gone missing. Jack Hannahan singled home a pair of runs in the first inning, and the Reds were back in the swing.
Mesoraco hit a solo shot in the eighth off Michael Blazek for the first multihomer game of his career. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a two-run homer off Blazek.
Cingrani (5-1) and four relievers contained an offense that had scored 26 runs in the last two games, allowing four hits.
The Cardinals ended a seven-game losing streak by beating the Pirates 13-0 on Thursday, then came to Cincinnati and drubbed the Reds 13-3 on Friday night. It was the first time since 2003 that they scored 13 runs in back-to-back games.
They got off to a fast start against Cingrani, making his first career appearance against the Cardinals. Jon Jay opened the game with a walk and came around on Carlos Beltran's double. Cingrani bounced his next pitch, letting Beltran move to third, but that's all the Cardinals would manage as the left-hander escaped the 30-pitch inning down only 1-0.
Cingrani left after the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth. Grounders by Rob Johnson and pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter drove in runs that cut it to 5-3.
Westbrook threw a five-hitter for a 10-0 win over Cincinnati on April 10. He lost his shutout right away this time. Westbrook gave up a hit and a pair of walks in the first, including an intentional walk to Jay Bruce that brought up Hannahan with the bases loaded and two outs. Hannahan, who was 0 for 4 career against Westbrook, lined a 2-2 pitch to center for a 2-1 lead.
It was the second game in a row that Westbrook had trouble in the opening inning. He gave up four runs in the first inning of a 9-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Monday.
Mesoraco's homer was only the fifth that Westbrook has allowed in his 16 starts this season.
Carpenter (0 for 20) and Reds 3B Todd Frazier (0 for 25) were out of the starting lineups. Carpenter got into the game as a pinch hitter. Frazier got in as part of a double switch. Neither got a hit. ... The Reds optioned RH reliever Curtis Partch to Triple-A Louisville a day after he struggled in the series opener. RH Pedro Villarreal was called up for the third time. ... RH Jonathan Broxton (elbow) threw 14 pitches in the bullpen without problem. He'll throw again on Sunday and could be activated off the DL next week. ... Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick threw a ceremonial pitch.