How Sweep It Is!

Cincinnati came out of the All Star break on a roll with a sweep of division foe St. Louis. Sunday night's win put them back in first place in the NL Central. The winning runs in the final two games came off the bats of former Cardinals Ryan Ludwick and Scott Rolen. They are now riding a six-game winning streak as they stay at home to host Arizona.

The Cincinnati Reds returned to first place last night by finishing off a sweep over the Cardinals after Pittsburgh lost at Milwaukee. Homer Bailey was moved up in the rotation to replace ace Johnny Cueto who was having problems with a blister. Bailey has been struggling at Great American Ball Park this season with a home ERA of almost six. That history did not repeat itself Sunday as he held the potent St. Louis lineup to two runs while pitching eight innings. He raised his record to 8-6 and lowered his ERA below four. Aroldis Chapman made his third straight appearance in the ninth inning. He made opposing hitters appear helpless by striking out all three of them and picked up his thirteenth save.

It was the second game in a row when an ex-Cardinal delivered the game-winning hit for the Reds. Saturday night Ryan Ludwick hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth. Last night it was Scott Rolen who delivered a two-out, bases-loaded single in the eighth inning to drive home two runs for a 4-2 win. It was Rolen's second hit of the game. Chris Heisey got the start in center field and contributed three singles to the Reds offense. Joey Votto had two hits, a walk, an RBI, and scored twice.

Bailey got a vote of confidence from Dusty Baker when he returned to pitch the eighth inning against the heart of the Cardinal lineup. Things did not start off well when Matt Holiday led off with a ground ball through the left side of the infield and Carlos Beltran singled sharply to right field. With the score tied at two Bailey remained in the game and rewarded his manager's decision by striking out Lance Berkman, retiring Yadier Molina for the first time in the game, and jamming David Freese for an soft come-back grounder to the mound.

This was a high profile series for the Reds. They were in the thick of a pennant race and facing the defending World Series champ. The final two games were nationally televised with much commentary about the bad blood between the two teams since an ugly bench-clearing brawl two years ago. There was additional drama coming off the All Star break with speculation that former Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa snubbed Brandon Phillips and Johnny Cueto because of their roles in the fight when he selected the N.L. squad.

Now that they have regained the division lead the Reds will have some more important series in store this season as they attempt to win their second NL Central crown in three years. They will remain at home and bring a six game winning streak into a four-game set with the Diamondbacks starting Monday night. Arizona is visiting after getting swept by the Cubs in a three-game series at Wrigley Field.

News from the Farm:

Louisville took the lead on an RBI double by Xavier Paul in the sixth inning. They added an insurance run in the seventh and held on for a 3-2 win over visiting Gwinnett. Mike Costanzo and Henry Rodriguez had two hit each for the Bats. Pedro Villarreal had an impressive start and got the win by holding the Braves to one run over seven innings. J.J. Hoover threw the final two innings for the save.

Pensacola scored three in the third and cruised to a 6-2 win over Jacksonville at Blue Wahoo Field. Andrew Means, Beau Mills, and Miguel Rojas had three hits each for the Fish. Their scoring was capped off by a solo inside-the-park home run by Billy Hamilton. Daniel Corcino tossed another gem. He allowed only one run on five hits in 6+ innings while striking out six. He's now 7-4 with a 3.04 ERA.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton did not have an opportunity to steal because he did not stop running until after he crossed the plate on his only hit. He's still at 109 steals in 87 games.

Bakersfield lost at home 7-5 to Rancho Cucamonga. The Blaze tied the score at two in the first inning on back-to-back home runs by Devin Lohman and Travis Mattair. They took the lead with a three-run sixth inning that was started by a solo homer by Juan Duran. Kurtis Muller had three hits and he's now 5-8 over his last two games. Devin Lohman added two hits to the offense. Starter Daniel Renken allowed six runs over seven innings and took the loss.

Dayton scored tied their game at Burlington on a solo home run by Nick O'Shea in the ninth before losing 3-2 to a walk-off homer in the tenth. O'Shea and Yorman Rodriguez had two hits each for the Dragons. Starter Wes Mugarian allowed two runs on three hits in five innings while striking out five. Dan Jenson threw three scoreless innings of relief. Ryan Kemp allowed the game-winner for his second loss.

Billings scored three in the first and had added on when Carlos Sanchez hit a grand slam in their 9-3 win over visiting Grand Junction. Seth Mejias-Brean had three hits and scored twice. Beau Amaral had two hits and a solo homer. Sanchez had two hits and drove in six. Robert Stephenson got his first win by allowing one run on three hits in five innings while striking out nine without a walk.

The AZL Reds home game against the AZL Brewers was postponed.

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