ST. LOUIS (AP) Two on and two out in the eighth inning with the heart of the Cincinnati Reds lineup due in a tie game, Adam Wainwright was at a crossroads.
In a brief mound meeting that matched the brisk pace of the game in a 2-1 victory Sunday night, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny showed faith in his ace.
''He just said, `You feel good?''' Wainwright recalled. ''I said `Yes sir.' He said `All right, this is your game, let's go.'''
Wainwright walked cleanup man Jay Bruce on a full count, giving him nothing to hit, before escaping. Kolten Wong then hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly off Mike Leake in the bottom half to help the Cardinals finish a three-game sweep.
''At that point he's the guy we want in the game,'' Matheny said. ''It's hard taking him out of the game in that situation.''
Matt Carpenter hit his fifth career leadoff homer and singled for his eighth multihit effort this season as the Cardinals won their fifth straight. Jordan Walden worked around a leadoff hit by Brennan Boesch in the ninth to earn his first save on a night off for closer Trevor Rosenthal.
The game lasted just 2 hours, 2 minutes.
''You blink and it's the next inning,'' Walden said. ''We're sitting down there like `It's already the fifth? Like `Wow, we'd better start stretching.'
''It's good, though. We don't have to sit down there and just look at each other.''
Wainwright (2-1) gave up one run and seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks, improving to 3-0 against the Reds the last two seasons. Leake was more economical, throwing 86 pitches with 66 for strikes.
''Coming into the game against Wainwright you know you've got to go out and put up low numbers,'' Leake said. ''It's fun facing guys like that.''
Leake (0-1) gave up both runs and four hits in eight innings for the Reds, who have totaled four runs during a four-game losing streak. Brandon Phillips had two hits and an RBI and Joey Votto singled in his first two trips.
''I know we've got a much better offense than we've shown to this point,'' manager Bryan Price said. ''I don't think we're reaching to think that the lineup that we have out there is capable of not just scoring runs, but scoring a lot of runs.''
Zack Cozart grounded into a forceout to end the eighth and is 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
Leake got through seven innings on just 76 pitches before Jon Jay doubled to open the eighth, advanced on a fly out and scored without a play on Wong's sacrifice fly to left.
Leake and Wainwright combined for 25 consecutive outs before Carpenter ended Leake's run of 15 in a row with a one out-single in the sixth that hiked his average to .400. Carpenter has six consecutive multihit games and nine in the first 11.
Tucker Barnhart's two-out single in the seventh halted an 0-for-12 stretch against Wainwright with two strikeouts and two balls hit out of the infield.
Carpenter's fifth career leadoff homer to straightaway center, tied for third-most in franchise history, gave the Cardinals the early lead. It was his first leadoff homer since July 22, 2014 against Tampa Bay.
Three straight Reds reached with two outs in the third and Phillips' bloop single tied it, ending Wainwright's run of 19 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings against Cincinnati.
Reds: C Devin Mesoraco may be close to returning to the lineup. He missed his sixth straight start with a left hip injury but was available Sunday to pinch hit. ... OF Billy Hamilton was much improved from a groin injury beating out an infield hit Saturday and though he didn't start also was available.
Cardinals: Matt Holliday started in LF a day after coming out with back tightness after scoring in the first inning. He has an 11-game hitting streak after singling in the first.
RUN TO GLORY
Before the game, Go! St. Louis Marathon women's winner Andrea Karl ran through finishing tape on the warning track in honor of the victory first granted to an imposter recently.
Reds: Anthony DeSclafani allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings his last time out at Chicago and faces the Brewers for the second time.
Cardinals: The Cardinals are off Monday before starting a six-game trip. Lance Lynn (1-1, 1.64) gets the call Tuesday at Washington.