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ST. LOUIS (AP) — There was no attempt by Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price to sugarcoat the situation.
The latest loss felt all too familiar.
"It sounds like the same old story," Price said after Cincinnati was beaten 2-1 by the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night. "To be honest with you, it's at the point where you're tired talking about the same game, losing 2-1, 3-2.
"At some point in time we've got to do something to win some of these games."
The Cardinals yanked Trevor Rosenthal with two on and one out in the ninth. With Jay Bruce facing lefty specialist Randy Choate, a ground ball to the right side might have been enough to tie it.
But Bruce struck out and Seth Maness retired Ryan Ludwick on a flyout to shallow center for his third save in three chances.
The Reds are 22-38 in one-run decisions, tied with the Marlins for the most in the majors. They also lead in one-run losses, two coming in a five-game skid.
The Reds entered the night last in the majors in runs, hits, average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage since the All-Star break.
"It's a broken record," Price said. "We're just not scoring enough runs."
John Lackey powered back into the St. Louis postseason rotation picture with 7 2-3 dominant innings, and Randal Grichuk and Matt Holliday hit consecutive homers in the first inning.
The Cardinals had only five hits but maintained a 2 1-2-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates with eight games remaining. Their magic number is seven for clinching a second straight division title and two over third-place Milwaukee for securing a fourth straight postseason berth.
St. Louis is 6-1 on its final nine-game homestand.
Lackey (14-9) was passed over in the just-completed three-game series against Milwaukee after complaining of a dead arm.
The 35-year-old right-hander arrived at the trade deadline with a big-game reputation but was 2-2 with a 5.05 ERA in his first eight starts.
Lackey was especially well-rested for the sagging Reds, considering he was ejected in the third inning of his previous outing on Sept. 10 at Cincinnati.
The Cardinals jumped on rookie lefty Mike Holmberg (1-2) early. With one out, Grichuk lined an 0-2 pitch into the visitors bullpen in left. Three pitches later, Holliday lined his 19th over the center field wall.
Center fielder Jon Jay helped keep the Reds down, twice robbing Ryan Ludwick of extra bases with leaping catches at the wall. The first catch came one at-bat before Zack Cozart's RBI single in the second.
Holmberg allowed three hits the rest of his six innings in his fourth start of the year and second appearance this month against St. Louis. He worked 5 2-3 innings against the Cardinals on Sept. 8 after replacing injured Dylan Axelrod after one batter.
"I tried to get in on Grichuk, left it over the plate, and he took advantage of it," Holmberg said. "I left a changeup up high enough for Holliday to get to it.
"I felt like after that I was going to make sure I didn't make those mistakes again."
The Cardinals have 101 homers, second-fewest in the majors — ahead of only the cross-state Kansas City Royals. They have gone back-to-back just twice, the other time on July 5 when Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta connected against Miami.
The Cardinals are 47-24 against the Reds at 9-year-old Busch Stadium.
Reds: Mike Leake (11-12, 3.65) needs one strikeout for 600. He has been victimized by a team-high five blown saves. He is 2-1 in four starts this year against St. Louis.
Reds: Joey Votto (left knee) is on the trip but is running out of time to play. He has missed 91 games during two stints on the DL.
Reds 2B Brandon Phillips' 107-game errorless streak, a franchise record for his position, ended when he threw wide to first on Jay's grounder in the second.
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