By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — In a season of few positive team accomplishments, the Cincinnati Reds had an opportunity to put one small star next to their name.
All they needed over the last six games against the St. Louis Cardinals was two victories to win their first season series against the Cards since 2011.
They won one.
Needing a victory Thursday night to clinch the series 10 games to 9, the Reds were whipped by pitcher Carlos Martinez and center fielder Dexter Fowler.
With an 8-5 victory, completing a three-game sweep of the series, it was the Cardinals winning the season’s series 10 games to 9.
HOMER BAILEY STARTED FOR the Reds and contributed only four innings, giving up four runs, seven hits and two walks en route to his ninth loss against five wins.
Meanwhile, St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez looks more like Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez than Carlos when he faces the Reds. He held the Reds to four runs on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings and is now 6-and-1 for his career against the Reds.
Fowler completed a destructive series against the Reds with two doubles, three RBI and two runs scored Thursday. For the three games he had two homers, three doubles, seven RBI and six runs scored. He had seven hits in the three games.
BAILEY PROMPTLY DISPATCHED the first two Cardinals hitters in the first inning, but Fowler doubled and Jose Martinez singles for a 1-0 St. Louis lead.
The Reds tied it in the second on Jesse Winker’s double, a two-out single by Tucker Barnhart and a wild pitch.
Bailey, though, ran into three-run difficulty in the St. Louis third with Fowler again being a pain in the posterior.
Bailey walked the first batter, Matt Carpenter, and Tommy Pham singled. Fowler doubled over center fielder Phillip Ervin’s head for two runs and Fowler later scored on Yadier Molina’s sacrifice fly for a 4-1 St. Louis lead.
THE REDS DREW TO WITHIN one, 4-3, in the fourth when Winker singled and Ervin snagged his third home run with a line shot over the center field wall.
Bailey was gone after four innings and Kevin Shackelford and Wandy Peralta silenced the Cardinals through six innings. Michael Lorenzen took over in the seventh and yielded two runs on a single by Jose Martinez, a run-scoring double over center fielder Ervin’s head and a run-scoring ground ball that made it 6-3.
Martinez struck out pinch-hitter Jose Peraza to open the bottom of the seventh, then gave up Scott Schebler’s 28th home run and a single to Zack Cozart and his work under suffocating heat and humidity was finished.
Left hander Tyler Lyons arrived on the scene to squash the rally, retiring Joey Votto on a called strike three and repeating the act by retiring Scooter Gennett on a called strike three.
THE CARDINALS REMOVED all doubt in the top of the ninth with two runs on three hits against Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, who was coming off a bout with the flu.
Scott Schebler made it interesting in the bottom of the ninth against former Reds pitcher Zach Duke, leading the inning with another home run. Schebler, batting leadoff for the second straight night, hit his 28th and 29th home runs. It was his third career two-homer game, the second this year — and not nearly enough.
Zack Cozart then struck out and Joey Votto flied to the center field wall. Scooter Gennett beat an infield hit between the pitcher’s mound and first base. The night ended when Jesse Winker grounded to first.
And with the defeat, the last place Reds slithered back three games behind the next-to-last Pittsburgh Pirates with time to catch them fast ticking away.