By Joe Kay
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Since the All-Star break, the last-place Reds have traded away another star and turned into a formidable team.
Brandon Phillips had three hits and left-hander Brandon Finnegan allowed two singles in six innings on Thursday, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-0 victory and a rare series win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Reds took two of three, giving them only their fifth series win in the last 23 between the NL Central rivals. And it goes beyond the one series.
For the first time since 1999, the Reds have won six straight series after the All-Star break. They traded RBI leader Jay Bruce to the Mets during the current surge.
“This is the time when some teams might phone it in,” manager Bryan Price said. “This group hasn’t.”
Phillips had a single and a pair of doubles, scored three times and drove in a run against former teammate Mike Leake (8-9). Ramon Cabrera drove in three runs, and Eugenio Suarez knocked in a pair.
Finnegan (7-8) allowed only a pair of singles, and then left after throwing 79 pitches on a humid, 88-degree afternoon. The bullpen gave up three more singles while closing out Cincinnati’s fourth shutout, which is tied with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh for the fewest in the NL.
“I didn’t have my best command,” Finnegan said. “They hit some balls hard, but we had some guys catch it. I had a lot of movement on the ball. (It) was a confidence boost, definitely.”
Reds first baseman Joey Votto went 0 for 4, ending a 17-game hitting streak that was the longest of his career.
It was the second time that the Reds faced Leake since they traded him in the middle of last season as part of their rebuilding. On July 7 at Great American Ball Park, Leake allowed only one earned run in 7 1/3 innings of a 7-6 Reds victory that ended with Votto’s homer in the bottom of the ninth.
This time, he left the game after failing to retire a batter in the sixth, giving up eight hits and seven runs. After spending his first 5½ seasons in Cincinnati, Leake suspects the Reds have an advantage because they know how he pitches.
“I’m sure it plays a part,” Leake said.
Leake extended his streak without walking a batter to 35 innings, the longest in the majors this season. It ended when Adam Duvall walked on a full-count pitch to open the sixth. The club record is held by Bob Tewksbury, who went 44 innings without walking a batter in 1993. Duvall later scored on Phillips’ double, his third hit of the game.
The Reds got a pair of runs in the second inning, all on hits to right field. Phillips singled, Scott Schebler doubled and Cabrera pulled a ball down the line for a two-run single. Phillips doubled again to right field in the fourth and scored on Suarez’s sacrifice fly.
The Reds won nine straight series after the All-Star break in 1999, when they lost a one-game playoff to the Mets for the NL wild card. … The Cardinals got Brandon Moss and Jhonny Peralta back from the DL at the start of the series. Moss went 6 for 13 with two doubles and a homer in the series. Peralta was 2 for 10.
Cardinals: Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter is expected to come off the DL over the weekend. He’s missed 29 games with a strained right oblique. He went 4 for 12 during a rehab assignment with a homer and a double.
Reds: SS Zack Cozart was out of the lineup for the third consecutive game with a bruised finger on his throwing hand. … Schebler was hit on the right side of the knee in the sixth but stayed in the game. He left after the inning as part of a double switch.
Cardinals: St. Louis returns home and starts a three-game series against Atlanta. LHP Jaime Garcia (7-8) is 2-1 in seven career starts against the Braves with a 4.32 ERA.
Reds: Anthony DeSclafani (6-0) opens a series in Pittsburgh. He’s 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA in two career starts at PNC Park.