ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals were, to use one of manager Tony La Russa's favorite terms, relentless. The Reds, however, were relentless with a head start.
Cincinnati jumped out to a five-run lead and staved off repeated St. Louis comeback attempts to beat the Cardinals, 11-8, at Busch Stadium on Friday night. The defeat ended the Cards' winning streak at four games, equaling a season high. They fell 8 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central with 24 games to play.
St. Louis lost for the second time in eight games, slowing a train that finally seemed to be picking up speed. The Cardinals scored five runs on the National League's ERA leader and chased him after five innings, yet even with their own ace on the hill, couldn't keep pace with the Brewers.
Starter Chris Carpenter pitched five solid innings and one very rough one, continuing a pattern he's seen happen a few too many times in 2011. The Reds rocked him in the second for six hits -- three of them doubles and five of them line drives -- giving Cincinnati a 5-0 lead.
It was the sixth time this year Carpenter has allowed at least four runs in an inning, and the ninth time he's been charged with at least five runs in a game. The latter number equals his total from the previous two seasons combined.
"Obviously a big game for us, and the five runs in the second wasn't what I was looking for," Carpenter said. "I didn't pitch well enough to give our guys a chance. They fought back, did a nice job. Offensively, they did a nice job. I just couldn't get out of that five-run second inning."
A curious defensive decision didn't help the right-hander any. After rookie Yonder Alonso's leadoff double, Drew Stubbs attempted to sacrifice him to third base. Catcher Yadier Molina fielded the bunt and attempted to get the lead runner, despite the absence of a force opportunity.
Both runners were safe on the play, setting the stage for the rest of the inning. Juan Francisco doubled in two runs, but Carpenter retired the next two batters, which should have been the end of the inning. Instead the Reds pounded out four straight hits, bringing home three more runs that changed the game drastically.
La Russa argued that the play was the right one, while Carpenter downplayed its importance.
"It's my job to go make pitches," he said. "I threw a good pitch to Francisco, and he hit a double down the line. I was fine with -- we were trying to be aggressive -- getting that guy at third base, [but it] didn't work out. I need to make a better pitch."
Carpenter settled in after that inning, though, and despite the fact that they were facing Johnny Cueto, the Cardinals got back into the game. They reached Cueto for two in the bottom of the second, one in the third and tied the game with a two-run fifth.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the Reds weren't done scoring either. Three batters into the next half-inning, Carpenter surrendered a pinch-hit solo homer to Todd Frazier, a ball that bounced off the right-field foul pole. The Cards briefly tied it once again in the bottom of the sixth on David Freese's solo homer, but a two-run shot from Alonso off Marc Rzepczynski put the visitors back on top for good.
"It was a slugfest," Alonso said. "That's the last thing, obviously, we were thinking about [with] Carpenter and Cueto."
The Cardinals still kept coming, but it was not enough. Pinch-hitter Shane Robinson, making his first appearance in a Major League game since 2009, grounded out with two on to end the eighth against Aroldis Chapman. Francisco added a three-run shot off Kyle McClellan for insurance in the ninth, and Matt Holliday responded with a ninth-inning solo homer.
The Cardinals missed out on a chance at a five-game winning streak for the seventh time this season. They are 5-8 against the Reds on the year.
"It's definitely the point where you just try to win every ballgame," Rzepczynski said. "We were able to fight all day. Unfortunately, we weren't able to pull through. It's getting down to crunch time where we need to start winning those kinds of games. And unfortunately, today we didn't."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.