CINCINNATI -- The Cardinals' offense was late to show up on Monday, but starter Shelby Miller bought the necessary time to ensure that a seventh-inning emergence would still come in time to extend the club's recent roll.
St. Louis opened a four-game series at Great American Ball Park with a 5-0 win over the Reds, who lost their starting pitcher (Dylan Axelrod) seven pitches into his night. The Cardinals, in contrast, rode seven shutout innings from Miller as the club won for the ninth time in 10 games. With the victory, the Cardinals maintained their 4 1/2-game division lead over Pittsburgh.
After being unable to capitalize on a bases-loaded opportunity in the fourth, the Cardinals pounced on reliever Manny Parra to score twice in the seventh. Randal Grichuk, pinch-hitting for the right-handed-hitting Oscar Taveras, smoked a 2-1 fastball to the wall for a leadoff double, his sixth hit in 16 at-bats against left-handers since being recalled.
The Reds were unsuccessful in trying to throw out Grichuk as he advanced to third on a grounder to short. Grichuk and Kolten Wong, who advanced to second on Miller's two-strike sacrifice, then scored with Matt Carpenter's broken-bat single to right. Matt Adams later punctuated the win with a three-run blast.
Perhaps by definition the team's No. 5 starter, Miller has not been pitching like one as of late. Monday's victory may have snapped his winless skid at six, but Miller has provided the Cardinals four consecutive quality starts and five in a row of at least six innings.
When he pitches next weekend, he'll be taking a 14-inning scoreless streak to the mound.
He breezed through seven innings on 76 pitches, one day after Adam Wainwright went the distance on 100, and looked to make a run at his third complete game. Manager Mike Matheny decided otherwise, calling in Pat Neshek after Brandon Phillips opened the eighth with a single.
Adams crushed a ninth-inning homer to tack three more runs onto the Cardinals' lead. The homer was Adams' 15th of the season and second in three days since returning from an oblique injury.
The Reds finished with three hits, all off Miller, and advanced only one runner into scoring position. That was Devin Mesoraco, who hit a leadoff double in the fifth and then went nowhere.
Saddled by inefficiency for much of his first year and a half in the Cardinals' rotation, Miller has benefited from the recent introduction of a sinker, more frequent use of his curveball and return of catcher Yadier Molina, who has a keen eye for when Miller's mechanics begin to loosen. One mound visit seems to halt any such cracking.
Over his last four starts, Miller has posted an average of fewer than 14 per inning. Last season, that per-inning average was over 17.
Miller was locked in a surprising pitchers' duel with David Holmberg early, as Holmberg was called into emergency duty when Axelrod exited with an oblique strain after one out. Holmberg, who had allowed 11 runs on 13 hits in 6 1/3 innings with the Reds this year, held the Cardinals to four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read