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ST. LOUIS (AP) — At this point, the Cincinnati Reds are looking to get through the final week of the season before turning their attention to next year.
"It's been a year to forget," Reds starter Mike Leake said after giving up of St. Louis' three home runs in an 8-4 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday night. "All you can do is try to play hard for the last seven games for your self-pride and try to put yourself in a good, happy spot going into the offseason.
"You just got to chalk this season up to a loss and be ready to go next year."
Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz hit a three-run homer as St. Louis moved closer to its fourth straight playoff berth.
Cruz homered with two outs on a full-count curveball that hung in the middle of the plate to give St. Louis a 3-0 lead in the second. Kolten Wong connected off Leake (11-13) for a two-run shot in the third for a 5-0 advantage.
Cincinnati's four runs are as many as it had scored in the previous five games. The Reds have lost six in a row and have 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 ballgame," Reds 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."
St. Louis hasn't been piling up runs either, but it has been adding to their win total.
Cruz's homer was just his third in 100 career games.
"It was a really good feeling," said Cruz, who also had his 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."
The Milwaukee Brewers beat the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates 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.
Randal Grichuk also homered as St. Louis won for the seventh time in eight games.
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, seeking his first win since June 17 before going on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, lasted just 4 2-3 innings. He 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."
Leake went five innings and allowed six runs. He also walked two and hit a batter, all of whom scored. He gave up two homers and has surrendered 22 this season.
"He didn't pitch a great game," Price said. "He's been such a big part of our rotation, I hate to spend any time being critical because he goes out there to compete and win every time he takes the ball. There's no quit in the kid. It just wasn't his day."
Grichuck's pinch-hit homer came 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 that Mesoraco could have continued but 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.
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