"You don't expect a leadoff homer to start your day," said Thompson.
But Thompson would give up only two hits in five innings and the Cardinals got spotless relief from four pitchers, notably rookie Jaime Garcia, who got six outs in the sixth and seventh with the ball not leaving the infield.
"Outstanding," said manager Tony La Russa of Garcia. "He made some very good pitches."
Thompson was the winning pitcher in relief on July 20 when the Cardinals reached a season-high 14 games over and now he has pitched them to 13 over after they had fallen as far back as nine over.
In his career as a part-time starter, part-time reliever, the Cardinals are 16-6 when Thompson starts. "Maybe (the Cardinals hitters) think they need to score more runs when I'm out there," Thompson joked.
Cardinals starting pitching has been strong in a recent three-game winning streak and four wins in five games but La Russa said that that basically was old news. "You give credit," he said. "Then you've got to keep doing it."
CARDINALS 5, REDS 3: The Cardinals, only 26-26 against Central Division teams before Friday, know they must do better within the division the rest of the way and they got a start on that with a series-opening win on Friday against the Reds. Four Cardinals relievers gave up only two hits over the last four innings with rookie RHP Chris Perez gaining his third save this week.
NOTES AND QUOTES:
--RHP Chris Carpenter, who just came off the disabled list where he had spent most of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, is back on it with a muscle strain in his right shoulder. Pitching coach Dave Duncan said he thought that Carpenter, who won't resume playing catch until Tuesday, needed two more bullpen sessions after that before he would be ready to resume pitching.
--OF Brian Barton, who had a fractured right wrist, was removed from the disabled list to give the Cardinals another position player. He grounded out as a pinch hitter Friday.
--Backup Jason LaRue caught RHP Brad Thompson, in part because he had handled Thompson's first three starts this season.
--RHP Adam Wainwright, who has been healing from a sprained middle finger on his right hand, probably will make his last rehabilitation appearance for Class AA Springfield on Saturday night.
--1B Albert Pujols, who had been hitless in three of his previous four games, had two doubles and a single.