ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals are trying to secure the NL Central title while battling a flu bug that has spread throughout the roster. At least they know they are headed back to the postseason.
The Cardinals clinched a playoff spot on Sunday, and then lost 7-2 to Jay Bruce and the Cincinnati Reds. But the biggest concern for manager Mike Matheny was an alarming group of sick players.
Regulars Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter did not play for the second straight game, and Matheny said there are "north of 10 players" bothered by flu-like symptoms.
"There are a lot of guys that are unavailable," he added. "Almost as many unavailable as available."
Infielder Daniel Descalso is one of the players who has not been affected by the bug.
"I'm just trying to avoid anybody that's sick," he said. "I try to wash my hands and use Vitamin-C. There's nothing you can really do about it. Just try to contain it and get guys back as soon as we can."
Matheny indicated that several players might be held off the late Sunday flight to Chicago, where the Cardinals begin a three-game set against the Cubs on Monday. He said some may end up rejoining the team closer to game-time for the series opener at Wrigley Field.
"We might delay a couple guys, we don't know how many," Matheny said.
St. Louis secured its fourth consecutive postseason appearance when Milwaukee lost to Pittsburgh earlier in the day. But the Cardinals' lead in the Central was sliced to 2 1/2 games over the Pirates.
Bruce hit two of Cincinnati's four homers as the Reds snapped a six-game losing streak. Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco also went deep.
"It was great, every time one of the guys came to the dugout I said, 'That's good timing,'" Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "These were impactful homers."
Reds right-hander Alfredo Simon (15-10) allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings. He was working on a 17-inning scoreless string before St. Louis scored in the fifth.
"My two-seam fastball was working and they were hitting it to the ground," Simon said. "That felt good."
Bruce hit a solo shot in the fourth and another in the eighth. He also had an RBI single in the sixth that gave Cincinnati a 3-1 lead.
"To end the final road trip on a good note is something we can take a positive out of," Bruce said. "They got a group of guys over there that are hard to score runs against. To continue to keep our foot on the gas and score some runs is nice."
Yadier Molina and Randal Grichuk hit consecutive RBI doubles in the St. Louis sixth, but the Reds responded with four runs in the eighth. Mesoraco had the big blow, a three-run drive against Sam Tuivailala that made it 6-2.
Lance Lynn (15-10) gave up three runs and four hits in six innings for St. Louis. He also struck out nine to run his season total to 181, making him the first St. Louis pitcher to fan 175 or more in three successive years since Bob Gibson (1970-1972).
"I made two pitches in the zone for homers," Lynn said. "They made good swings on them. Other than that, I threw the ball well."
The Cardinals have won seven of nine and close the regular season on the road with three-game sets in Chicago and Arizona.
Descalso said the team was happy to nail down the playoff berth.
"We acknowledged it a little bit," he said. "But there is other work to be done. Obviously, we'd like to go ahead and clinch the division and take care of that."
Reds: Mesoraco returned the lineup after leaving Saturday's game in the fifth inning with the flu.
Reds: Cincinnati will close out the season with a six-game homestand beginning Tuesday against Milwaukee. RHP Johnny Cueto (18-9, 2.33 ERA) will face RHP Mike Fiers (6-3, 1.78 ERA) in the opener. Cueto, who will also start on Sunday, is looking to become the first Cincinnati pitcher to win 20 games since Danny Jackson went 23-8 in 1988.
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.45 ERA) will take on Cubs LHP Travis Wood (8-12, 4.86 ERA) in the series opener in Chicago. Wainwright has thrown two complete games in winning his last four starts.
THEY KEEP COMING
A crowd of 45,747 gave the Cardinals their 52nd sellout of the season. They averaged 43,712 during the regular season and totaled 3,540,649, the second-highest total in franchise history behind the 2007 campaign.