ST. LOUIS — Chris Carpenter is 7-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his last eight starts, and hungry for more dominant outings. He hopes a new workout routine between starts will help him stay sharp the rest of the way.
Carpenter beat the Cincinnati Reds for the third consecutive time, and Albert Pujols homered for the second straight game in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 5-2 victory Wednesday night.
An elbow nerve problem ended Carpenter’s season early in 2008, so he’s worked on strength while backing off on throwing.
‘‘We’ve done a few things the last few weeks, just playing around with exercises,’’ Carpenter said. ‘‘The whole thing that happened last year, we’re trying to find a way to continue to keep everything strong.’’
The first four hitters in the St. Louis lineup had at least two hits, with Matt Holliday going 3 for 4 and contributing an RBI double to a three-run first.
Pujols hit his major league-leading 38th homer in the third and his line-drive single off Homer Bailey’s left foot in the first knocked the right-hander out of the game with an injury diagnosed as a bruise. Bailey expects to make his next start.
‘‘I knew it wasn’t broken right away because I was walking on it,’’ Bailey said. ‘‘If it doesn’t hit a fat (size) 13 shoe, then it’s a double play.’’
Carpenter (12-3) matched his season high with 10 strikeouts and was dominant most of his seven innings, allowing two runs and eight hits although his ERA rose one point to 2.27. He hasn’t lost since June 30, and is 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in three outings against the Cincinnati this year.
He caught four Reds on called third strikes.
‘‘He has a lot of weapons, and it’s hard to spot one of the best pitchers in baseball a 3-0 lead in the first inning,’’ Reds manager Dusty Baker said. ‘‘You’ve got to cash in on opportunities when you have them, and you hate to see guys go down looking.’’
Holliday is career .455 hitter at 4-year-old Busch Stadium with eight homers and 16 RBIs in 77 at-bats and has five games with three or more hits since joining the Cardinals on July 24. Pujols broke out of a 2-for-20 slump at home for the NL Central leaders, who have won five of six.
‘‘All you’ve got to do is look at his track record,’’ manager Tony La Russa said of Pujols. ‘‘Don’t ever worry about him.’’
Brandon Phillips had a two-run single and Chris Dickerson had three hits for the Reds, who have lost nine of their last 12 in St. Louis and 11 of 14 on the road overall. Bailey (2-4) allowed singles to all three batters he faced and is 0-3 with a 9.82 ERA in four career starts against the Cardinals.
He also threw late and wild to first after recovering to field Pujols’ shot in front of the mound for an error, allowing two runs to score.
Carpenter retired 14 of 15 batters starting with the final out of the third, and the Reds didn’t have a runner in scoring position before four straight one-out singles produced both runs in the sixth. He struck out Willy Taveras, Wladimir Balentien and Drew Sutton twice each and hit the mid-90s at times on the Busch radar gun.
‘‘My arm is strong,’’ Carpenter said. ‘‘We’ve just got to continue to manage what we do in between (starts) and make sure it’s 100 percent when it’s time to go out there.’’
Ryan Franklin finished for his 28th save in 30 chances.
NOTES: Injured Cardinals 3B Troy Glaus, out all year following shoulder surgery, took ground balls before the game. … Reds C Ryan Hanigan, in a career-worst 0-for-20 slump, was not in the lineup. … The Cardinals haven’t decided whether rookie Mitchell Boggs will get another shot at the fifth starting spot. … Rick Ankiel, who flied out to shallow right with the bases loaded in the fifth, is 1 for 11 in that situation with two RBIs. … Carpenter has 11 career double-digit strikeout games. … The Cardinals drew two bases-loaded walks in the series with Jared Burton missing on all four pitches to Ryan Ludwick on Wednesday. … Reds reliever Arthur Rhodes made his 762nd career appearance, tying Armando Benitez and Kenny Rogers for 51st on the all-time list.