Dexter Fowler delivered again, hitting two doubles and a single as St. Louis overcame Scott Schebler’s two home runs to beat the Reds 8-5 Thursday night.
The Cardinals began the day 2 1/2 games behind Colorado for the second NL wild-card spot and five games behind the Central-leading Cubs.
Fowler drove in two runs. He went 7 for 13 with two home runs and six RBIs in the three-game series.
Yadier Molina drove in two runs as the Cardinals completed their first sweep in Cincinnati since 2010.
"We didn’t play good games in Chicago," said Molina, who reached a new career high with a team-leading 82 RBIs. "We got good hitting, good pitching and good defence here. Everybody took good at bats. That’s what we need to do."
Five different Cardinals finished with two or more hits as St. Louis scored at least eight runs for the third consecutive game.
"There were a lot of good things," manager Mike Matheny said. "We had a big day. Yadi coming up with big hits. I saw some good things all day long across the board."
"It’s a huge game every night. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. We were coming off a tough weekend, and the guys did a real nice job clearing their minds and getting back to doing what they need to do to be successful."
Carlos Martinez (12-11), celebrating his 26th birthday, lasted 6 1/3 innings on a muggy night with a gametime temperature of 85 degrees, allowing four runs and nine hits.
"Carlos was OK," Molina said. "His location was up sometimes, and they took advantage, but all in all, he was OK."
Martinez improved to 3-1 in his last four starts. He gave up Phillip Ervin’s two-run homer in the fourth and a drive by Schebler in the seventh.
Schebler led off the ninth with a homer, his 29th of the season.
"I got that first one pretty good," Schebler said. "Martinez got a couple pitches in on me. The last at-bat, he just threw me a pitch where I was expecting it."
Homer Bailey (5-9) became the third consecutive Reds starter to be lifted without getting through five innings. He gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks in four innings. Manager Bryan Price pinch-hit for him with two runners on and two outs in the fourth.
"Homer got the first two outs on three pitches," Price said. "It was labour-intensive after that. I don’t think he threw the ball bad. It was tough to take Homer out. He had pitches left on the table. In that situation, I had to take a shot."
"It was Bryan’s decision and it’s not mine to question," Bailey said. "I was battling, for sure. I didn’t get any breaks, a double play or a borderline pitch, but that’s not an excuse. Sometimes you can get through if you get a break here or there."
Fowler doubled and scored on Jose Martinez’s single in the first, then hit a two-run double over Ervin’s head in centre in the third and later scored on Molina’s sacrifice fly.
Molina added an RBI double in the seventh.
Schebler batted leadoff for the Reds for the first time this season and fifth time in his career. He was 0 for 3 before his two homers, his third career multihomer game and second of the season.
The Cardinals recalled switch-hitting infielder Breyvic Valera from Triple-A Memphis before the game. That lifted to 11 the number of extra position players available to Matheny.
The announced attendance of 14,903 didn’t include the dogs who accompanied their owners as part of the Reds’ fourth "Bark in the Park" Night of the season.
Cardinals: 1B Jose Martinez returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game while nursing a sore left thumb.
Reds: Hopes that C Devin Mesoraco might be able to squeeze in some pinch-hit at-bats before the end of the season were dashed as his fractured left foot hasn’t healed quickly enough.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (12-8) allowed five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts over eight innings in his last start against Pittsburgh, a 7-0 win on Sept. 10. He starts when St. Louis visits the Pirates on Friday night.
Reds: RHP Sal Romano (5-6) allowed five hits with no walks and six strikeouts over eight shutout innings in his last start, a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on last Saturday. He’ll pitch against the visiting Red Sox on Friday night.