ST. LOUIS (AP) — It didn't take Tony Cruz long to consider all of his home runs and rank his latest.
He's only had three in his 100-game career and the first two came on the road.
Cruz hit a three-run homer and the St. Louis Cardinals connected three times, beating the Cincinnati Reds 8-4 on Saturday night and moving closer to their fourth straight playoff berth.
"It was a really good feeling," said Cruz, who also had the first curtain call of his career. "The first one of the year is always a really good feeling and my first one at home. You know you hear the crowd. It's amazing."
Milwaukee beat second-place Pittsburgh 1-0 on Saturday to give the St. Louis a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL Central. The Cardinals cut their magic number to one for clinching a postseason berth, and five for their second NL Central title in a row.
Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk also homered as St. Louis won for the seventh time in eight games.
The Cardinals have hit five homers in the past two games, but have just 104 for the season — among the lowest total in the majors. Their lack of power has provided an ongoing issue manager Mike Matheny has had to address.
"I like the home runs," Matheny said in his postgame interview. "You guys always accuse me of not liking them, but especially those three-runners that Tony did. We know we have the kind of team that can do that and it's nice to see them."
Cincinnati's four runs were as many as it scored in the previous five games. The Reds have lost six in row and has been outscored 30-8 in that stretch.
They are 20-40 since the All-Star break.
"You're seeing us having to go out there and really struggle so mightily to try to find a way to win a ball game," manager Bryan Price said. "Certainly nobody's enjoying this current portion of our schedule. The way we've played for the last 60 games has been miserable."
Jason Motte (1-0) needed just three pitches and one out to earn the win. He came in relief of starter Michael Wacha and got Todd Frazier to foul out to right.
Wacha didn't qualify for the win because he lasted just 4 2-3 innings. He was seeking his first win since June 17 before going on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
Wacha gave up two runs and six hits on 78 pitches, the most since returning at the start of the month.
"I felt a lot better, today," he said. "More secondary stuff was working for me. My command was a little bit better. I felt it was a step in the right direction."
Mike Leake (11-13) allowed six runs in five innings. He also walked two and hit a batter, all of whom scored. He gave up two homers and has surrendered 22 this season.
Cruz hit his first homer in more than a year, connecting in the second. His last home run was Aug. 4, 2013, at Cincinnati.
Wong hit his 12th, a two-run shot in the third. Grichuck added a pinch-hit homer in the sixth — it was his third of the season and his second in two nights.
Grichuck later added an RBI bloop double.
Zack Cozart homered for the Reds and Kris Negron doubled twice.
Cardinals: 1B Matt Adams and 3B Matt Carpenter both were out of the starting lineup with a stomach virus. Matheny said they were "quarantined," though it wasn't clear if they were at Busch Stadium and available or sent home. ... Star C Yadier Molina got his first start of the season.
Reds: C Devin Mesoraco was pulled in the sixth inning because of a stomach bug. Price said Mesoraco could have continued but the manager didn't think it was worth it.
Reds: RHP Alfredo Simon (14-10, 3.35) has given up five hits in seven innings during each of his past two starts, including in a 4-2 win against St. Louis on Sept. 10. The Cardinals have batted .228 in 101 at-bats against Simon over 22 2-3 innings.
Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (15-9, 2.68) has given up two runs over his past 15 innings and went 0-1 in those games, including a 1-0 loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 11. He has a 2.00 ERA this month over four starts and goes after his fourth win against the Reds. He is 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA in four games against them division rivals this season.