MLB Insiders - Cards 13-1 Over Reds

LHP Mark Mulder reported no ill effects after his rehabilitation start on Sunday night for the Cardinals' Class A affiliate in Quad Cities. He probably will make one more minor league start on Friday as he completes his recovery from a shoulder impingement.

The Cardinals, who have had double-figure leads from August on in the last two seasons as they rolled to division championships, are playing their first meaningful series this late in the season since 2003. And they warmed to the challenge of the pursuing Reds on Monday night, pounding 17 hits, including four homers, in a 13-1 win that stretched their National League Central lead to 4 1/2 games over Cincinnati.

"There's no doubt that when you play the club next to you (in the standings), it's a different kind of series," manager Tony La Russa said.

Though Jeff Weaver was 2-0 in his previous appearances at Great American Ball Park, his pitching since joining the Cardinals (8.68 ERA) was cause for concern as he opened the four-game set. But the veteran easily had his best start in five for the Cardinals, fanning seven in six innings and showing both his best fastball and best breaking ball since they acquired him in early July.

"He was more aggressive," catcher Yadier Molina said. "He was keeping his fastball down in the strike zone."

Weaver, who had been 3-10 with the Angels and 1-2 with the Cardinals, said, "It's a step in the right direction."

Molina had been a season-long concern offensively, hitting just .213. But he banged a two-run homer to cap a five-run first inning, and he doubled home two runs in the fourth as he matched his career high of four RBIs.

The Cardinals had a season-high 10 extra-base hits (six doubles, four homers).

REPLAY: The first four Cardinals hit safely in the first inning as Ronnie Belliard, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen all doubled, and Chris Duncan singled. Yadier Molina climaxed the five-run first rally with his fourth home run, and the Cardinals went on to a 13-1 win over Cincinnati. Right-hander Jeff Weaver worked six innings in his longest outing as a Cardinal. He fanned seven as he raised his record to 2-2.

NOTES

--SS David Eckstein, in a 5-for-33 slump, got a day off Monday. He arrived late at the park in Cincinnati anyway after tending to some personal business.

--LF Chris Duncan matched his career high with three hits, including his eighth homer.

--1B Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to seven games as he had two doubles and drove in two runs, raising his RBI total to 92.

--INF Aaron Miles made his first career start at shortstop and handled both of his chances cleanly, including pivoting on a double play.

--The Cardinals' win was their third in a row after they had slogged through their second eight-game losing streak.

Their victory also was just their third in nine games against the Reds.


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