McCoy: Cessa, relievers combine on Reds’ two-hit shutout

If Luis Cessa is auditioning/politicking for a spot in next season’s Cincinnati Reds starting rotation, he made a stout and strong statement Sunday afternoon in Busch Stadium III.

Cessa silenced the potent St. Louis Cardinals bats on no runs and one hit over five innings — and the one hit was a single by Paul De Jong in the third inning that glanced off shortstop Jose Barrero’s glove. It could have been ruled an error.

After Cessa left, Derek Law, Joel Kuhnel and Buck Farmer completed a 3-0 two-hit shutout.

After winning the first game of the five-game series, the Reds lost three straight to the soon-to-be National League Central champions before winning Sunday afternoon.

Cessa, a starting pitcher at times with the New York Yankees, was placed in the Reds’ bullpen when he was acquired last year. But with trades and injuries, the Reds needed starters. It was a time when the Reds appeared to take a pair of shearers to the pitching staff and cut off all the flowers and kept the stems.

Cessa, though, is blossoming into a legitimate candidate to be part of next season’s rotation with Hunter Greene, Nick Lobolo, Graham Ashcraft and a mystery guest.

They gave Cessa, a 30-year-old year-old right hander from Cordoba, Mexico, the chance at the end of this season and starting is what he wants.

The Cardinals gave Cessa and the Reds a slight break by resting two of their best players, Paul Goldschmidt and Tommy Edman.

The only disturbance the Cardinals made against Cessa was in the third. He walked Nolan Gorman on a full count with one out. DeJong produced his single off Barrera’s glove and Brendan Donovan reached on second baseman Matt Reynolds’ error.

That filled the bases with one out, but Cessa coaxed an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play from Corey Dickerson.

The Cardinals started left-hander Jordan Montgomery, 4-and-1 with a .2.28 earned run average since the Cardinals acquired him in a trade at the deadline with the Yankees.

A couple of Reds rookies provided the offense. Spencer Steer, batting second and playing second base, singled home catcher Chuckie Robinson in the third inning. Robinson reached on a double, breaking a 0-for-26 slump.

Cincinnati had gone 13 innings without scoring a run and had scored one run in 20 innings when Steer drove in the run.

Barrero singled with one out, Jonathan India drew a nine-pitch walk and Steer produced with two outs.

The Reds made it 3-0 in the sixth when Nick Senzel singled and Stuart Fairchild crushed a two-run home run over the center-field wall, a blast that traveled 403 feet.

The Cardinals threatened in the seventh after relief pitcher Law retired the first two. He walked Lars Nootbaar and Yadier Molina singled. Kuhnel replaced Law and blew away Gorman with three straight strikes.

Kuhnel remained for the eighth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning and Farmer pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to complete the two-hit shutout.

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