CINCINNATI (AP) — Jose Martinez had a career night, and he wasn’t alone in a Cardinals offense that finally found its stride at the expense of the major leagues’ worst team.
Martinez drove in six runs Thursday and Yadier Molina homered in his return from a one-game suspension, powering St. Louis to a 13-4 victory that left the Cincinnati Reds mired in their worst start since 1955.
The Cardinals homered a season-high four times while piling up a season high in runs. The Reds helped by walking 11 batters, three of them with the bases loaded. Martinez led the way with a career-best four hits.
This was more like what they expected.
“It’s been kind of the buzz, especially back home — everybody’s worried about the lineup,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We know when this offense is going, it can be as good as any offense in the league.”
The Reds fell to 2-10, the worst record in the majors and their worst start since an identical mark in 1955.
The pitching has been so bad again that manager Bryan Price used infielder Cliff Pennington in the ninth. He threw fastballs in the upper 80s, walked two and gave up Martinez’s second RBI single of the game.
“Yeah, it wasn’t a great game,” Price said. “You don’t want to use those guys (position players) before the ninth inning. You don’t want to use them at all. The other guys have to be able to shoulder the load. You don’t want to blow out your bullpen in April and May.”
Pennington has pitched one other time. While playing for Toronto, he became the first position player to pitch in a postseason game. He recorded one out in the ninth inning of a 14-2 loss to the Royals during Game 4 of the 2015 AL Championship Series.
Pennington found out in the eighth that Price planned to use him in the ninth. He went into the batting cage by the clubhouse to get ready.
“I threw two pitches in the cage,” he said. “I wasn’t going to waste any.”
Paul DeJong’s solo shot deep into the upper deck in center off Austin Brice (0-2) snapped a 4-4 tie in the sixth. Martinez and Molina hit back-to-back drives in the seventh, when St. Louis put it away with seven runs. Martinez added a two-run double in the inning.
“The coaches have said to be patient, and I did it and everything went well,” Martinez said.
Michael Wacha (2-1) went five innings and extended his streak of beating Cincinnati. The right-hander is 9-1 career against the Reds. The Cardinals have won Wacha’s last 11 starts against the Reds since Sept. 20, 2014.
Molina served a one-game suspension on Wednesday for making contact with plate umpire Tim Timmons during an altercation with Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo. Molina singled home a run in the first inning off Sal Romano and connected for his fourth homer in the seventh.
Marcell Ozuna also had a solo shot that extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Joey Votto was out of Cincinnati’s lineup for the first time since Sept. 2, 2016, ending his streak of 202 consecutive games started. It was the longest for the Reds since Pete Rose started 370 straight games from 1973-76. Price decided that Votto, who turns 35 in September, should get an occasional day off this season.
“We talked about it in spring training,” Price said. “He’s our most established player, our oldest regular. I’m just trying to be smart and keep him healthy.”
Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett went up the middle and dived into the outfield grass to grab Ozuna’s grounder with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, then threw him out to end the threat. The call was upheld upon review. Ozuna reached into the stands to grab Jesse Winker’s foul in the seventh.
Cardinals: RH Sam Tuivailala went on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to Tuesday with a strained left knee. RH Mike Mayers was recalled from Triple-A Memphis to take his spot in the bullpen. Mayers pitched the last three innings for his first save.
Reds: LH Brandon Finnegan expects to be activated and join the rotation. He has been sidelined since spring training with a strained left biceps, but had no issues in a rehab appearance this week. “I threw 98 pitches and I came out feeling good,” Finnegan said Thursday.
Cardinals: RH Luke Weaver (1-0) won both of his starts against the Reds last season, allowing two earned runs and fanning 13 in 11 innings.
Reds: RH Tyler Mahle (1-1) gave up a career-high five runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 5-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday.