CINCINNATI — Jason Marquis made sure the St. Louis Cardinals wouldn’t need another historic comeback.
The right-hander gave up three hits and took a shutout into the ninth inning Tuesday, and the St. Louis Cardinals’ depleted bullpen held on for a 4-2 victory against the Cincinnati Reds.
A day after they pulled off the biggest ninth-inning comeback in their history — seven runs for a 10-9 win — the Cardinals relied on a few well-placed hits and impeccable pitching to win another.
“We’ve got some superstars and some guys who know how to play the game the right way,” said Marquis, who also had two hits.
St. Louis has the NL’s best record at 17-8, and the Cardinals’ lead in the NL Central is up to five games.
“We’ve been in a lot of tough games that have come our way,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Nothing is going Cincinnati’s way. The Reds have lost a season-high six straight, falling 7 1/2 behind the Cardinals, the one team they can’t seem to beat.
“It’s all too familiar,” said reliever Joe Valentine, who gave up a pair of runs in the eighth, his fourth straight sub-par appearance. “The last week has been the roughest part of my career, to go along with the roughest part of our season as a team.”
Marquis (4-1) allowed three singles before turning it over to a bullpen trying to get by while closer Jason Isringhausen recovers from strained muscles in his side.
Ray King let in the first run with a throwing error, Julian Tavarez struck out Austin Kearns for the first out and left-hander Randy Flores gave up Joe Randa’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. Finally, Al Reyes — the fourth Cardinals pitcher of the inning — retired D’Angelo Jimenez on a routine fly, getting his second save in two chances.
Marquis threw 115 pitches, and La Russa decided he’d had enough after Ryan Freel opened the ninth with a single. Marquis hasn’t thrown a complete game in 78 career starts.
“I would like to finish a game, obviously,” Marquis said. “It’s a long season. I’d like to throw a complete game in September.”
Marquis’ catcher kept the Reds out of a rally — Yadier Molina picked Dunn off first base in the second and caught Ryan Freel trying to steal in the sixth.
Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek made the game’s best defensive play, darting behind second base to catch Kearns’ grounder in the seventh, then coming to a sliding halt before throwing him out.