CINCINNATI — This one hurt a lot.
The Reds had a chance to win their third straight over the St. Louis Cardinals and close to within a half-game of second place in the NL Central. They couldn't make good on a final chance and lost 5-4 in 16 innings Wednesday night.
Their longest game of the season ended with one of their greatest disappointments.
"For sure," starter Bronson Arroyo said. "Definitely. When you play that many innings and have a couple of runners in scoring position ..."
Matt Adams won it for St. Louis by hitting a pair of homers in extra innings. He had one in the 14th that broke an 0-for-17 slump. Billy Hamilton helped the Reds tie it again in the bottom of the inning and prolong the game.
Adams homered again in the 16th off Logan Ondrusek (3-1), deciding a game of blown chances on both sides.
"We did have a lot of missed opportunities," manager Dusty Baker said. "They had some chances, we had some chances. How often do you see a guy take the lead twice?"
No blown chance stood out more than one in the 15th inning. Shin-Soo Choo singled and advanced to third on a sacrifice and a groundout. Chris Heisey came up, saw third baseman Matt Carpenter playing back and decided on his own to try to bunt for a single.
He missed the pitch from Carlos Martinez (2-1) and Choo got too far off third base, resulting in a costly out.
"You're not going to try a safety bunt with two outs," Baker said. "Heisey thought the third baseman was back, he was bunting for a hit. Choo was going to try to score."
Cincinnati's three, four and five hitters – Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Heisey – were a combined 0 for 19.
The Cardinals had dropped the first two games of the series, which concludes Thursday. St. Louis leads the third-place Reds by 2 1/2 games heading into their last head-to-head game before the end of the season. St. Louis leads the series 11-8.
The Cardinals have dropped five of seven overall, costing them precious ground in the division's three-team race. The Pirates, Cardinals and Reds are all in good shape to make the playoffs – one as a champion, the other two as wild cards.
St. Louis wasted a chance to put it away in the 14th inning.
Adams broke his deep slump by leading off with homer off Alfredo Simon. Hamilton helped the Reds tie it with another stolen base in the bottom of the inning.
Hamilton ran for Ryan Ludwick after his single off Edward Mujica, who blew a save chance for only the third time in 38 chances. Hamilton stole second – he's 2 for 2 against catcher Yadier Molina – and scored easily on Zack Cozart's single.
Arroyo broke with his history of subpar showings against the Cardinals. It was his 38th career start against St. Louis – more than against any other team – and he didn't have a lot to show for it, going 0-3 against the Cardinals this season and 8-16 in his career.
He went seven innings and allowed three runs – two earned – giving the Reds chances that they squandered.
St. Louis scored twice in the fourth, when Matt Holliday hit a sacrifice fly and Carlos Beltran came around on Votto's throwing error on Allen Craig's grounder.
Craig sprained his left foot while rounding first base on the play and left the game. He'll be examined again on Thursday.
Brandon Phillips led off the fifth with his 18th homer, giving him 100 RBIs. He's the first Reds second baseman to reach the mark since Hall of Famer Joe Morgan drove in 111 in 1976, when the Reds swept the Yankees for their second straight World Series championship.
"Awesome," Phillips said. "I never thought I could do it. But it's all about winning right now."
Notes: RH Jake Westbrook felt good a day after he threw in the bullpen. Westbrook has been sidelined since Aug. 22 with a strained lower back. He's eligible to come off the DL on Friday. Manager Mike Matheny isn't sure whether he'll use him as a starter – as Westbrook prefers – or out of the bullpen when he returns. ... Carpenter leads the NL with 169 hits and 15 three-hit games. ... Arroyo tied a Reds record with three sacrifice bunts. ... LH Tony Cingrani (6-3) starts the final game of the series for Cincinnati. He went on the DL after leaving a game Aug. 20 with a strained lower back. RH Lance Lynn (13-9) starts for St. Louis. He's 3-0 in four starts against the Reds this season.
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