CINCINNATI — At this rate, nobody is going to catch St. Louis.
Right-hander Jason Marquis hit a two-run double and pitched seven stingy innings for his eighth straight win Tuesday night, 6-0 against the Cincinnati Reds.
Reggie Sanders and Jim Edmonds hit solo home runs to back Marquis (11-4), one of three St. Louis pitchers with double-digit wins. Edmonds leads the NL with 11 home runs in July.
The Cardinals are 10-3 since the All-Star break, surging to the majors’ best record and a daunting double-digit lead in the NL Central. Half of those wins have come against Cincinnati, which is 2-10 against St. Louis this season.
It reminds Sanders of his 2001 season in Arizona when he helped the Diamondbacks win the World Series.
“That team had veterans who had an urgency to win now,” Sanders said. “I think there’s a little bit of that here now, that urgency to get one. We’ve just got to continue to be relentless and keep that edge.”
By contrast, the NL’s biggest surprise of the first three months has gone flat.
The Reds managed only three hits as they lost their seventh in a row, matching their worst slump of the season. Cincinnati slipped below .500 for the first time since right-hander Cory Lidle (6-9) lost the season opener.
Injuries to Ken Griffey Jr., Austin Kearns and Sean Casey set up a tailspin that effectively scuttled their playoff chances.
“I don’t think anybody thought this was going to happen,” Lidle said. “I don’t know if stunned is the right word, but we’re not too happy about it.
“After the All-Star break, we went up against some teams that were playing well. We thought we were still in it, but we kept falling down the ladder. We need to figure something out quick and get some of our key players back.”
The Cardinals have it all.
Marquis hasn’t lost since May 26, going 8-0 with a pair of no-decisions and a 2.90 ERA. He left the game for a pinch-hitter in the eighth, having thrown 99 pitches.
He came to the Cardinals from Atlanta as part of the trade for J.D. Drew in the offseason. After failing to win a consistent role with the Braves, he has become a constant in the Cardinals’ surge.
“They let me go,” Marquis said. “To me, they made a mistake. I don’t want to sound cocky about it.”
Marquis also has been sensational at the plate. He doubled home a pair of runs with two outs in the third inning off Lidle, who struggled with his control in a five-inning stint. Marquis’ 13th hit this season, the most by any pitcher in the majors, put the Cardinals ahead 5-0.
“I just feel comfortable with (hitting),” Marquis said. “I work on it between starts. I just have fun with it.”
The Reds had one chance to get back into it, and Marquis snatched it away.
His only lapse came in the fourth, when he walked Adam Dunn and D’Angelo Jimenez with two outs to load the bases. Wily Mo Pena, who leads the league with two grand slams, broke his bat on a soft liner to shortstop Edgar Renteria that ended the threat.
Marquis, who threw eight innings during a 4-0 victory against Milwaukee in his previous start, allowed three hits, walked three and struck out six.