CINCINNATI – Rich Aurilia drove in three runs with a homer and a single, and Javier Valentin singled home the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning, rallying the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Reds won for only the fourth time in 11 games this season against the NL Central champions, who clinched over the weekend and are using the last two weeks to stay sharp and in shape.

John Gall’s three-run homer put the Cardinals ahead 5-2 in the third inning. The left fielder also threw out Felipe Lopez at the plate in the seventh, keeping it tied at 5. Valentin followed with an RBI single off Ray King (4-3).

Aurilia hit a two-run homer in the first and an RBI single that tied it at 5 in the fifth inning off starter Jeff Suppan, who failed in his bid for a 16th win. Adam Dunn had a two-run double that let the Reds match their franchise record of 312 two-base hits in a season.

All the Cardinals’ runs were unearned, following Lopez’s throwing error in the third. Josh Hancock (1-0), sidelined most of the season by a groin injury, threw one perfect inning to get the win. David Weathers pitched the ninth for his 14th save.

The Cardinals have won 95 games even though the everyday lineup has been battered by injuries throughout the season. They suffered another on Tuesday when second baseman Mark Grudzielanek sprained his right ankle in a collision with Valentin at first base while running out a grounder.

Grudzielanek sat on the field with a grimace for several minutes, then walked off slowly. He has missed games in the last month because of a sore back and knee. He was listed as day-to-day.

With two weeks left before the playoffs, manager Tony La Russa wants to keep his regulars sharp by keeping them in the lineup most of the time. The Cardinals reached the World Series last year but were swept by Boston.

The Reds remained one loss away from guaranteeing their fifth straight season without a winning record. It’s their deepest rut since they went from 1945-55 without a winning record.

The Cardinals scored the five unearned runs in the third off left-hander Randy Keisler, who was moved from the bullpen to replace struggling starter Luke Hudson.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the third, Grudzielanek hit a grounder to Lopez, an All-Star shortstop who charged and threw on the run. The wide throw let in two runs and set up the collision between Grudzielanek and Valentin.

Two pitches later, Gall hit his second major league homer for a 5-2 lead. It was the NL-leading 200th homer off Cincinnati’s staff, which gave up 236 last season.

Notes: A specialist examined Reds OF Ken Griffey Jr., sidelined since he strained his right foot while running the bases on Sept. 4. No serious injury was detected, and Griffey remains day-to-day. … Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman was honored on the field before the game for his upcoming induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. … It was Valentin’s first start of the season at first base and the fourth of his career. … The 1999 Reds also hit 312 doubles.


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