Phillips’ 2-run HR sends Reds over Cardinals 6-5

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cardinals were one out away from a good start to the rest of the season. Brandon Phillips spoiled their celebration with one of his own — the last thing St. Louis wanted to see.

Phillips hit a two-out, two-run homer off Fernando Salas in the ninth inning Friday night, rallying the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-5 victory over the Cardinals in another wild finish to the NL Central’s nastiest rivalry.

Phillips connected on the second pitch from Salas (5-3) for his second career game-ending homer, stopping to wave his arms in joy before reaching first base. Phillips injected much of the ill-will in the rivalry last season, when he called the Cardinals whiners, sparking a brawl.

Given the circumstances, the second baseman ranked it as his most memorable homer.

“Biggest? Let me go ahead and say yes,” Phillips said. “That’s the biggest one. We’re playing the Cardinals. That’s a great situation for me getting that home run.”

St. Louis went up 5-4 in the eighth on Albert Pujols’ two-run homer off hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman. The Cardinals’ closer couldn’t hold on, blowing a save for the third time in 19 chances. His second pitch to Phillips was closer to the middle of the plate than he wanted.

“I just left the ball in the wrong spot,” Salas said, through a coach serving as translator. “He just made a good swing on a pitch I left a little bit out over the plate.”

The sellout crowd of 41,238 reveled in the one-swing finish to a wild game that fit the rivalry. Logan Ondrusek (4-3) got the win.

“It was disappointing,” said manager Tony La Russa, who used eight pitchers. “We put a lot of spirit and energy into this one and just got beat.”

Chris Heisey hit a pair of solo homers for the Reds and robbed Pujols of one in the first inning, snatching his flyball from the top of the wall in center. Johnny Cueto protected the 2-0 lead into the seventh inning.

Then, it got wild, just like so many games between these teams.

Phillips, a Gold Glove second baseman, committed only his third error of the season in the seventh, helping St. Louis rally ahead. Tony Cruz’s pinch-hit RBI single put the Cardinals up 3-2.

Third baseman David Freese’s throwing error let the lead slip away fast. Rookie shortstop Zack Cozart drove in the tying run with an infield single, and Joey Votto’s double put the Reds up 4-3.

Pujols put the Cardinals back ahead by getting the best of a power-vs.-power matchup, hitting a 96 mph fastball from Chapman for a two-run homer in the eighth. It was his 19th homer and his second since returning from a broken left wrist.

Pujols declined to talk after the game.

Both teams slogged through the first half of the season trying to overcome seemingly nonstop injuries. The Cardinals lost Pujols and Matt Holliday, while the Reds’ rotation and bullpen were in flux. St. Louis handled it better, going into the All-Star break tied with Milwaukee for first place in the NL Central.

Defending champion Cincinnati stumbled into the break in fourth place after closer Francisco Cordero blew three save chances in five days. This time, the Reds overcame another late meltdown.

Heisey started the game with a little sizzle. He caught Pujols’ drive at the top of the wall in center field in the first inning, holding on when his glove smacked the yellow padding. Heisey then had the third leadoff homer of his career off Jake Westbrook — he also had a leadoff homer off him on July 6, when the Reds won 7-6.

Westbrook gave up five hits in five innings, striking out five — a major improvement on his last start. The first five Reds scored in that win on July 6.

“I felt I was more down in the (strike) zone,” Westbrook said. “To be successful, I have to be down, and I got a little more into that and had a little bit more success. I guess it was a step in the right direction.”

Heisey hit another solo shot in the fifth for the second multihomer game of his career.

Notes: Pujols’ homer was his 427th, moving him ahead of Billy Williams on the career list. He’s tied with Mike Piazza for 41st. ... The Cardinals expect RF Allen Craig back by Aug. 1. Craig hurt his right knee when he ran into a padded railing while trying to catch a ball on June 7. ... Scott Rolen got his 500th double, joining Hall of Famer George Brett and Chipper Jones as the only 3B with at least 2,000 hits, 500 doubles, 300 homers and 1,200 RBIs. ... The Reds put RHP Jose Arredondo on the DL with a sore forearm and recalled LHP Jeremy Horst from Triple-A. ... Cozart has hit safely in his first five games.

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