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STL@CIN: Freese's knock clears the bases in the first

CINCINNATI -- This is one way to erase any and every memory of a seven-game skid.

Just let the bats do the venting. Again.

During their seven-game skid, which allowed Pittsburgh to seize the top spot in the National League Central, the Cardinals totaled only 10 runs. They exploded for 13 runs in a slump-busting thumping of the Pirates on Thursday and they matched that mark on Friday at Great American Ball Park, where they walloped the Reds, 13-3.

The win inched the Cardinals to within a half-game of the Pirates in the battle for the division crown.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Friday afternoon that his players never submitted to the emotional drain forced upon them by the losing streak, though he admitted that Thursday's win provided them a significant sense of relief. Friday's drubbing was doubly enjoyable.

After a pair of convincing victories, the Cardinals appear to be more than back on track.

"Being able to go through what we went through and being able to win the last two games," said right fielder Carlos Beltran, "[is] huge for us."

St. Louis pieced together three innings of three or more runs in the series opener in Cincinnati. The Cardinals pounced for four in the first, thanks in large part to a three-run double by David Freese.

"That was huge," Beltran said. "That really dictated the whole game right there."

Jon Jay followed with an RBI single and Allen Craig plated another run with a two-out single in the second to push the lead to 5-0. Craig, who leads the Majors with a .476 average (50-for-105) with runners in scoring position, went 2-for-2 in such situations on Friday.

"With a lineup like this, when you give up four in the first inning, as good as they can be and as much as they grind at-bats, it's very difficult to kind of keep those guys down," said Reds hurler Bronson Arroyo, who only lasted 3 2/3 innings. "Because when they get momentum going, they really start to turn the heat up on you."

St. Louis poured on four more runs in the fourth. Reds pitchers issued a trio of two-out walks, the latter two pushing home a run each. Jay capped the frame with a two-run double.

Arroyo surrendered seven runs on eight hits, including three to Beltran, who upped his career average against the veteran to .400 (14-for-35).

"It's usually feast or famine with these guys," Arroyo said. "They got a good ballclub, and they just beat me around the ballpark today."

The Cardinals extended their advantage to 12-0 in the fifth, as Daniel Descalso opened the inning with a home run and Craig followed with a two-run shot four batters later. Descalso logged his first career multi-homer game, as he led off the seventh with a line drive into the visiting bullpen.

Shelby Miller had all of the backing he needed before he dug his cleats into the dirt in the center of the diamond. The rookie right-hander surrendered a single to the first batter he encountered, Shin-Soo Choo, but proceeded to tally eight strikeouts while not yielding another hit until the fifth.

Miller ran into trouble in the sixth as he served up a three-run homer to Joey Votto, and departed the contest before he could record another out. By then, though, the Cardinals had produced enough offensive output to keep the intrigue to a minimum.

"It was my own fault, just kind of letting off the gas pedal," Miller said. "Figuring I already had this game, I was going to go deep into the game. I already had it figured out and I stopped executing pitches and I think that was the killer for me tonight."

The Cardinals' patience proved killer for the Reds. Cincinnati skipper Dusty Baker lamented the fact that he used all but two of his relievers, as his bullpen awarded St. Louis batters seven walks over 5 1/3 innings.

Matheny, on the other hand, praised his pitching staff, which held the Reds' lineup to six hits. Miller said he had "some of the best stuff" he has possessed on the mound all season, a campaign in which the 22-year-old has racked up 11 wins while averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

It was the offense, however, that contributed most heavily to the club's recent woes. Those troubles now seem to be but a distant memory.

"It was frustrating there for a few days," Matheny said. "It's good to see some energy. The results really keep the confidence going and hopefully we can ride it for a while."

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