While the organization's focus is on the future, the young Reds are laying it on the line.
"We might be looking to the future, but it says a lot about our players to go out and compete every day," said Reds manager Bryan Price.
On Tuesday night, Jay Bruce and Marlon Byrd each doubled in runs during a three-run first inning, and Anthony DeSclafani recorded a career-high nine strikeouts, lifting Cincinnati to a 3-2 victory over the National League Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
Third baseman Matt Carpenter hit a two-run home run for St. Louis (67-39), which lost three straight to the Reds, who won five of their past seven games.
Cincinnati lost 14 of its last 17 series against the Cardinals before taking two of three last week at Busch Stadium.
DeSclafani (7-7) factored heavily in last week's series win with seven shutout innings in a 1-0 win Wednesday.
The 25-year-old right-hander was nearly as dominant against them Tuesday, allowing two runs and seven hits with no walks and the nine strikeouts.
"I didn't do anything different," DeSclafani said. "I was locating better. Had them guessing a little bit. My fastball and slider were working."
Billy Hamilton helped preserve the victory for DeSclafani with a sensational over-the-shoulder grab of right fielder Jayson Heyward's line drive leading off the eighth. The 24-year-old center fielder landed on the warning track but held on.
Hamilton just missed a highlight-reel grab of center fielder Randal Grichuk's triple in the third, which preceded Carpenter's homer.
"Confidence is a big thing for these young [pitchers]," said Hamilton. "It gives them the motivation to go out there and throw any pitch knowing we have their back behind them. I'm going to do everything I can to make that catch."
Aroldis Chapman recorded his 23rd save for Cincinnati (48-56), and 56th consecutive save at Great American Ball Park.
John Lackey (9-7) allowed more earned runs in the first inning Tuesday night than in any start since June 8. He allowed three runs or less in 19 of 22 starts.
But he found his rhythm in the middle innings, retiring the final 14 batters he faced, finishing with three runs allowed in six innings. But, his teammates couldn't complete the rally.
Lackey endured a three-run, 30-pitch first inning.
Just when it appeared a double-play would help Lackey escape the initial jam, Bruce laced a two-out, RBI double down the left field line.
Byrd followed with a double high off the right-center-field wall to drive in Bruce, making the score 2-0.
After walking catcher Brayan Pena with his 25th pitch of the inning, Lackey was visited at the mound by pitching coach Derek Lilliquist. However, shortstop Eugenio Suarez followed with an RBI single, putting the Reds ahead 3-0.
"That first inning definitely could have gone a little bit different," Lackey said. "I threw the ball OK. I needed to make better pitches with two outs."
St. Louis broke through against DeSclafani in the third when Grichuk tripled and scored on Carpenter's 14th home run, cutting the margin to 3-2.
"I wish I could have pitch back, but that's the way it goes," said DeSclafani.
But the Cardinals couldn't complete the comeback.
"It's unfortunate, the damage that was done there in the first," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "[Lackey] settled down and stayed in that game a lot longer than I expected him to. Unfortunately, a lot of damage was done right there in the beginning."
NOTES: Cincinnati reinstated LHP Manny Parra (left elbow strain) from the 15-day disabled list and optioned OF Kyle Waldrop to Triple-A Louisville. ... Cardinals RF Jason Heyward batted third, making him the first Cardinal to start in eight different spots in the lineup since Colby Rasmus in 2010. ... The Reds shut out the Cardinals in their last two games before Tuesday, the first time they blanked St. Louis in two straight games since a doubleheader sweep in 1937. ... The Reds-Nationals game postponed on July 8 will be made up Sept. 28 at Nationals Park. Three makeup games leave Cincinnati with just three off days the remainder of the season. ... Cardinals RHP Jordan Walden was recalled from his rehabilitation assignment due to an unspecified setback. He's been on the DL since April 30 with a biceps injury.