- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Despite plenty of scoring chances, the Cincinnati Reds couldn’t break through.

John Lackey pitched seven strong innings, rookie Tommy Pham continued his productive hitting and the St. Louis Cardinals beat Cincinnati 3-1 Tuesday night, handing the Reds their third straight defeat.

Cincinnati loaded the bases twice and had at least one runner in every inning except the sixth. But the Reds scored their only run in the first on a long homer by Jay Bruce.

“We did a nice job of getting guys on base but we weren’t able to break out with the big hit,” manager Bryan Price said. “They didn’t create bigger problems by walking hitters.”

Lackey (13-9) gave up nine hits but did not issue a free pass. He got three ground-ball double plays that thwarted rallies and brought his National League-leading total to 28.

Kevin Siegrist walked two in the eighth, one intentional that loaded the bases with two outs, but Ivan DeJesus Jr. grounded out to end the threat. Steve Cishek allowed a single to Adam Duvall in the ninth before earning his first save for St. Louis.

Reds rookie Keyvius Sampson gave up four hits in 5 1-3 innings and allowed one run, on back-to-back doubles by Matt Carpenter and Pham in the third. The Cardinals broke the tie in the seventh when Pham hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field off Sam LeCure (0-2).

“It was more in the zone,” Price said of Sampson’s pitching. “As he matures as a pitcher and uses his entire mix, he’s going to be even better.”

Sampson had a chance to help himself with the bat when he came up with one out and the bases loaded in the second but hit a grounder that second baseman Kolten Wong turned into a double play.

Bruce’s homer was a 456-foot shot to right field that was the longest by a left-handed hitter at 10-year-old Busch Stadium. Bruce has 25 homers, including five in his past eight games.

“It’s always fun when he’s in one of these things and he’s out there hitting those long homers,” Price said.

Cincinnati third baseman Todd Frazier saved a run in the third when he backhanded a grounder by Jhonny Peralta and threw him out at first.

Frazier made an even better play the next inning when he caught a foul ball while falling over a railing into the camera well by the Reds’ dugout.

“When your momentum’s going one way, I could have stopped, but at the same time maybe I would’ve gotten hurt,” said Frazier, who credited Sampson and Jim Day, a Reds TV analyst stationed in the well, for pulling him to safety.

Joey Votto walked in the top of the eighth to reach base for the 39th consecutive game.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Reds: C Brayan Pena started for the first time since injuring his right hamstring Sept. 8. He singled twice in three at-bats before being lifted for a pinch runner.

Cardinals: C Yadier Molina said he plans to return before the end of the regular season despite a left thumb injury. Molina was relieved to hear he would not need surgery after sustaining a slight ligament tear Sunday. “Five, seven, 10 days, whatever it is, but no surgery,” he said. “That was good news.”

UP NEXT

Reds: Rookie LHP Brandon Finnegan, acquired from Kansas City in the Johnny Cueto trade, will make his second career start in the finale of the three-game series. Finnegan allowed three hits and one run in five innings and picked up a win at Milwaukee last week.

Cardinals: Lance Lynn will try to get on the right track after lasting 3 1-3 innings at Wrigley Field last week. Lynn (11-10, 3.28) has a 5.11 ERA over his past five starts.

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