McCoy: Cards hand Reds third straight loss, creep closer in wild-card race

For the Cincinnati Reds, One is the Loneliest Number. just as Three Dog Night sang it.

And it is apropos that the song was sung by Three Dog Night because for the third straight game the Reds scored only one run.

After scoring one run in each of two losses Saturday and Sunday to the Miami Marlins, the Reds scored only one again Monday night and fell to the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-1, in Great American Ball Park.

The suddenly silent Reds bats produced only two hits, both by Kyle Farmer, and lost for the fifth time in seven games. And it enabled the Cardinals to close to within 2 1/2 games of the Reds for the second wild card spot in the National League.

And Farmer got into the dog theme after hitting a home run and a double while the rest of the roster went hitless.

“The dog days of summer are on us,” he said “We’re a good hitting team. We’re just in a little rut right now. Good teams that can hit come out of ruts. I think we’ll come out tomorrow and hit like we always have.”

Veteran left-hander Jon Lester, 8-2 for his career against the Reds while pitching for the Chicago Cubs, made his first start against Cincinnati wearing a St. Louis uniform.

And he was as good as it gets.

The Reds managed one hit over 6 1/3 innings, a solo home run by Farmer leading off the second inning.

Lester then retired 16 in a row until he walked Joey Votto with one out in the seventh. Strangely, St. Louis manager Mike Shildt removed Lester, even though he had thrown only 86 pitches.

“You look back and we’ve faced some really, really, really, really good pitching the past five to six games,” said Farmer.

“We had Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff in Milwaukee and then we faced Sandy Alcantara and that lefty (Jesus Luzardo) in Miami,” Farmer added. And Milwaukee’s bullpen is really good and Miami’s bullpen was really good. So we’ve faced some really good pitching.”

And Lester?

“He mixed his pitched up really well and had his cutter moving away,” said Farmer. “He came in on righties at the right time. I was fortunate to hit one of his few mistakes. I was lucky to get that pitch. He’s good and he was on tonight.”

T.J. McFarland replaced Lester and Farmer bounced a ground-rule double over the left field fence, putting runners on third and second with one out.

But Eugenio Suarez bounced one to third baseman Nolan Arenado and he threw Votto out at home. Tyler Naquin took a called third strike to end the threat.

The troublesome first inning for Reds starter Luis Castillo bit him again. He walked leadoff batter Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt lofted his 22nd home run over the right field wall.

It was runs 21 and 22 given up by Castillo in the first inning this season, including seven home runs.

Castillo gave up only one more run during his six innings, a run that came across in the sixth. Harrison Bader blooped a double to left and alertly took third on a ground ball to third. That enabled him to score on Tyler O’Neill’s slow roller infield hit to third base.

As for manager David Bell, he is in repeat mode, praising both the opposing pitcher and his pitcher … and insisting his team will hit.

“We are going to hit, we will,” he said. “We’re confident we will figure it out.”

Of Castillo, now 7-14, he said, “The one pitch to Goldschmidt (home run), a very good hitter who has been swinging the bat great. It was a 3-and-2 count and he tried to come in and might have left it over the plate.

“Other than that, Luis was outstanding. Luis continues to throw the ball really well and tonight was as good as he’s been all year, other than the one pitch,” Bell added.

Shildt did not send his normal closer, Alex Reyes, to the mound in the ninth. Reyes has 27 saves in 33 opportunities, but he gave up a three-run walk-off home run in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

So Giovanny Gallegos was afforded the opportunity. He retired Nick Castellanos on a ground ball, struck out Votto (6 for his last 41) and ended the game by retiring Farmer on a pop-up to shortstop.

Farmer acknowledged the importance of these games against the Cardinals, a team dogging them in the standings.

“Every time we play the Cardinals we put a star by those games,” he said. “They’re one of our in-division rivals and it’s always fun playing them in a competitive atmosphere. They are on our tail right now and we have to come out and win tomorrow.

Scoring more than one run would be a step in the right direction.