Reds edge Cards

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CINCINNATI – Javier Valentin’s ninth-inning single over a drawn-in infield sent the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-2 victory and a two-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion added solo homers for the Reds (19-8), who moved a season-high 11 games over .500. The NL Central leaders also lead the league in victories.

Austin Kearns started the winning rally with a leadoff single off Brian Falkenborg (0-1), who was called up from Triple-A Memphis before the game. The right-hander hit Brandon Phillips with his next pitch.

After Jason LaRue’s sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, Valentin pinch-hit, took two pitches in the dirt, then lined a single over the head of second baseman Aaron Miles. Valentin raised his right fist in celebration and was surrounded by teammates as soon as he reached first base.

Todd Coffey (2-0) struck out John Gall with two runners aboard in the ninth to keep it tied at 2. In his last two at-bats, Gall fanned with runners in scoring position.

The Cardinals’ starting lineup was missing Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds. Pujols, who leads the majors with 14 homers and 32 RBIs, aggravated his back on a defensive play last week and got a day of rest – his first this season.

Edmonds missed four starts last month because of a sore shoulder and hasn’t done much at the plate. He pinch-hit in the seventh against Rick White with two runners aboard and flied out, dropping his average to .208.

The scaled-down lineup was a huge benefit for left-hander Dave Williams, who has been the Reds’ least-effective starter. Williams, obtained from Pittsburgh in the offseason trade for Sean Casey, brought a gaudy 9.53 ERA into the game.

His toughest out on the Cardinals? Pujols is 7-for-19 off the left-hander with three homers.

It didn’t appear to matter at the outset. David Eckstein and Gall opened the game with singles, and Scott Spiezio’s single made it 1-0. Dunn ran down Juan Encarnacion’s drive to the gap in left-center to prevent it from being worse.

Juan Encarnacion homered over Dunn’s head in the third, his third homer in three games, for a 2-0 lead. Williams then settled in and didn’t give up another run in his 6 2-3 innings.

Right-hander Sidney Ponson blanked the NL’s highest-scoring offense – six runs per game – until Dunn hit a solo homer off the right-field foul screen in the sixth and Edwin Encarnacion followed with a tying homer.

It was a familiar script for Ponson, who blanked the Nationals last Thursday before giving up a pair of seventh-inning runs in a 6-2 win.

Notes: The Cardinals optioned OF Skip Schumaker to Memphis. … C Yadier Molina snapped an 0-for-16 slump with a sixth-inning single. … Molina also picked Ryan Freel off first base. He has picked four Reds off first base in the last two seasons. … The Reds put OF Cody Ross on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised finger. OF Chris Denorfia was called up from Triple-A Louisville. … Ken Griffey Jr. will stay in Cincinnati while the Reds travel to Colorado for a two-game series. He’s eligible to come off the disabled list, but hasn’t fully recovered from an inflamed tendon behind his right knee. “There hasn’t been a setback,” manager Jerry Narron said. “He just hasn’t gotten to the point where he feels like he can play.”

AP-ES-05-02-06 1520EDT

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