ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Cincinnati Reds were in control for much of the game. Zack Cozart had a solid performance, Todd Frazier came up with a big hit and Mike Leake looked ready to pick up the win.
Then it all fell apart. Just like it usually does when the Reds play the St. Louis Cardinals.
J.J. Hoover gave up Allen Craig's first career grand slam with two out in the seventh inning, and Cincinnati went on to an 8-6 loss in the opener of an important series on Monday night.
"They got us again," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They had some tough at-bats."
Cozart had two hits and three RBIs for the Reds, who dropped to 4-9 against St. Louis this season. Jay Bruce hit his 25th homer in the eighth.
Cincinnati has lost its last six series against St. Louis. The Reds' last series win against the Cardinals was a three-game home sweep from July 13-15, 2012.
"I hate to give up a lead against any team," Hoover said. "But this one was important."
Matt Holliday also had a long three-run homer as St. Louis moved into sole possession of first place in the NL Central for the first time since July 29. The Cardinals lead idle Pittsburgh by a half-game and Cincinnati by 3½ games in the top-heavy division.
Craig is 7 for 10 with 20 RBIs this season with the bases full.
"I think I've developed a pretty good approach that allows me to be successful in that position," Craig said. "I go up there confident and I believe in myself."
Rookie Carlos Martinez (1-1) pitched two innings for his first major league win and Edward Mujica worked a perfect ninth for his 35th save.
Cozart and Frazier each hit a two-run triple off Tyler Lyons in the second, helping Cincinnati to a 4-0 lead. But Holliday belted a three-run drive deep to left in the third.
Holliday's 18th homer came against Mike Leake and traveled an estimated 442 feet for the longest shot by a St. Louis player at Busch Stadium this season.
"What it comes down to is that guys are just swinging the bats," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
The Cardinals went ahead to stay in the seventh. Jon Jay drove in a run with a bases-loaded grounder off Manny Parra (1-3). Hoover then came in and walked Holliday on a full-count offering and Craig drove the next pitch over the wall in right for his 13th homer.
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