CINCINNATI — Heading into the second game of their series against the St. Louis Cardinals, manager Dusty Baker knew his struggling Reds couldn't wait much longer to break out of their week-long funk.
"We need to beat these Cardinals," Baker said. "We can't have them thinking they can just throw their gloves out there and beat us."
This time, the Reds applied the beating.
Devin Mesoraco drove in three runs with a pair of homers, and the Reds finally broke out against a St. Louis team that has held them down all season, beating the Cardinals 8-3 on Saturday night to even their series.
The Reds won for only the fourth time in 11 games between the NL Central rivals. Cincinnati had scored fewer than four runs in each of their last nine games head-to-head.
"It's pretty big," left-hander Tony Cingrani said. "We've been on a pretty rough stretch."
And not just against St. Louis. The defending NL Central champions are mired in third place because their offense has gone missing, scoring four or fewer runs in each of the last seven games. Jack Hannahan singled home a pair of runs in the first inning, and the Reds were back in the swing.
"That calms everybody down," Mesoraco said. "Now you're coming back, you feel good and confident."
Cingrani (5-1) and four relievers contained an offense that had scored 26 runs in the last two games, allowing four hits.
Jake Westbrook (7-6) gave up five runs — all with two outs — in five innings. Hannahan singled with the bases loaded in the first inning. Mesoraco's homer in the fourth made it 4-1.
The catcher hit a solo shot in the eighth off Michael Blazek for the first multihomer game of his career. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a two-run homer off Blazek.
The Cardinals ended a seven-game losing streak by beating the Pirates 13-0 on Thursday, then came to Cincinnati and drubbed the Reds 13-3 on Friday night. It was the first time since 2003 that they scored 13 runs in back-to-back games.
They got off to a fast start against Cingrani, making his first career appearance against the Cardinals. Jon Jay opened the game with a walk and came around on Carlos Beltran's double. Cingrani bounced his next pitch, letting Beltran move to third, but that's all the Cardinals would manage as the left-hander escaped the 30-pitch inning down only 1-0.
Cingrani left after the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth. Grounders by Rob Johnson and pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter drove in runs that cut it to 5-3.
Westbrook threw a five-hitter for a 10-0 win over Cincinnati on April 10. He lost his shutout right away this time. Westbrook gave up a hit and a pair of walks in the first, including an intentional walk to Jay Bruce that brought up Hannahan with the bases loaded and two outs. Hannahan, who was 0 for 4 career against Westbrook, lined a 2-2 pitch to center for a 2-1 lead.
"The hit of the game was the two-out hit by Jack Hannahan," Baker said. "It was nice to see some of the guys swinging that way tonight. It looked pretty good tonight."
It was the second game in a row that Westbrook had trouble in the opening inning. He gave up four runs in the first inning of a 9-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Monday.
"I couldn't finish off innings," Westbrook said. "I'd get a couple of quick outs and I couldn't put them away. That was a subpar performance for me. I felt like I pitched better today than in my last start. I was making decent pitches."
Mesoraco's homer was only the fifth that Westbrook has allowed in his 16 starts this season.
Westbrook walked five batters in five innings, and three of them scored. Joey Votto got the second of his three walks with two outs in the fifth and came around on Brandon Phillips' double.
Notes: Carpenter (0 for 20) and Reds 3B Todd Frazier (0 for 25) were out of the starting lineups. Carpenter got into the game as a pinch hitter. Frazier got in as part of a double switch. Neither got a hit. ... The Reds optioned RH reliever Curtis Partch to Triple-A Louisville a day after he struggled in the series opener. RH Pedro Villarreal was called up for the third time. ... RH Jonathan Broxton (elbow) threw 14 pitches in the bullpen without problem. He'll throw again on Sunday and could be activated off the DL next week. ... Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick threw a ceremonial pitch.