This one got a little closer than the St. Louis Cardinals wanted, but all was well in the end.
The Cardinals quelled a dramatic ninth-inning rally Wednesday night and defeated the Cincinnati Reds 7-3 before 43,085.
St. Louis led 7-0 entering the ninth, only to see the Reds get the tying run to the plate. With the bases loaded, Trevor Rosenthal got Todd Frazier on a fielder's choice to end the game, posting his 37th save and allowing the few remaining fans to exhale.
Lance Lynn (14-8, 2.78 ERA) worked seven innings before departing in the wake of a 58-minute rain delay. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out five for his third straight victory.
Lynn outdueled Johnny Cueto (15-7), who was attempting to become the first 16-game winner in the major leagues.
"It didn't hurt my feelings one bit beating him," Lynn said, finally offering an impish smile. "You see all the leaderboards and you see his name up at the top. I outpitched him tonight.
"It doesn't matter who I'm facing, I know I've got a chance to beat them, especially with this team, this lineup and this defense behind me."
The Cardinals (69-57) completed a much-needed 6-1 homestand, pulled 12 over .500 for the first time and crept within 1 1/2 games of first-place Milwaukee, which lost to Toronto.
Lynn allowed one runner to advance as far as second base --Jay Bruce in the first inning. All the Reds hits against him were singles.
"You face him up against a good team and a very good pitcher and you have to be impressed if you watch the rhythm he had and the confidence he had," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Lynn. "Every pitch, it seemed like he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it. He wanted to be very good this game, and he was."
Jhonny Peralta had a three-run double to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the fifth and Jon Jay was on base four times with three singles and another hit by pitch. Jay has been hit by pitches six times in the last six games, giving him 16 to lead all major-leaguers.
Jay also extended his hitting streak to 12 games, during which he is 18-for-35. He has reached safely in 19 of his last 27 plate appearances.
"It was a big win for us tonight," Jay said. "A day off (Thursday) and then we've got to keep it going. Lance did a great job of setting the tone and pitching deep into the game."
Jay insists he takes no satisfaction out of his own performance.
"I don't look at that," said Jay, who lifted his average from .295 to .313 on the homestand. "I'm just trying to help this team win games."
Following the rain delay, Randy Choate got two outs in the eighth. Carlos Martinez got the final out in the eighth, then allowed three ninth-inning runs that were aided by two Cardinals errors.
The Reds' outburst prompted Matheny to go to Rosenthal with runners at second and third and one out.
Rosenthal got Billy Hamilton on a comebacker, but walked Bruce to bring Frazier to the plate. Frazier, whose 21 home runs lead Cincinnati, couldn't extend the inning and the Reds (61-66) dropped their fifth in a row and their eighth in the last nine.
St. Louis took the lead for good in the third. With one out, Jay singled and scored on Matt Holliday's double to make it 1-0.
Jay singled with one out in the fifth. After Holliday was hit by a pitch and Adams walked, Peralta lined a shot into the right-center gap, easily clearing the bases. Peralta has a team-high 50 extra-bases hits --33 doubles and 17 home runs.
The Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth when Oscar Taveras walked, Daniel Descalso doubled and Lynn walked. That ended Cueto's outing.
Matt Carpenter greeted reliever Logan Ondrusek with a sacrifice fly, but Ondrusek avoided more damage by getting Jay on strikes and Holliday on a fly to right.
After the rain delay, the Cardinals piled on against Carlos Contreras.
Descalso walked to lead off the eighth and scored on Peter Bourjos' double. Greg Garcia, batting for Carpenter, struck out, but Jay collected his third hit, an RBI single to right that made it 7-0.
The runs gave the Cardinals breathing room they didn't believe they would need when the Reds got the tying run to the plate in the ninth.