The Cincinnati Reds looked to be in deep trouble after Edinson Volquez lasted only one inning in his first start after coming off the 15-day disabled list.
"One of the finest young pitchers in our game and he leaves after one inning and the bullpen's got to pitch eight," St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I mean, that's a great opportunity for us."
Instead, Mike Lincoln and four other Cincinnati relievers allowed one earned run in eight innings of a 5-3 victory against the Cardinals on Monday night.
Volquez left after experiencing numbness in the fourth and ring fingers of his pitching hand and was set to return to Cincinnati for an examination Tuesday, but had no symptoms after the game and was unconcerned.
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"That's crazy," Volquez said. "I don't feel anything."
Lincoln (1-0) gave up only Colby Rasmus' sixth homer in three innings of relief and Francisco Cordero worked the ninth for his 14th save in 14 chances and 28th in a row dating to last July.
"That's a huge thing to ask of them, when the starter goes only one inning," outfielder Chris Dickerson said. "It says a great deal about our bullpen."
Volquez, a 17-game winner last year, allowed a run on two hits in his first start after a DL stint because of back spasms. He said the numbness began on a fastball to Rasmus, the second hitter of the game. The rest of the inning he avoided the last two fingers by leaning on a curveball that normally he uses two or three times a game.
"Today I threw like 10, in 20 pitches," Volquez said. "Everybody was wondering 'What's wrong with you?'"
Cincinnati rebounded after getting swept in a three-game series at Milwaukee and ended a six-game road losing streak while Lincoln won for the first time since July 11, 2008 at Milwaukee. Reds relievers weren't exactly rested coming in after Micah Owings lasted 5 2-3 innings on Sunday in Milwaukee and Aaron Harang was chased after 4 1-3 innings on Saturday.
Laynce Nix had two hits and his two-run double off Todd Wellemeyer (5-5) capped a three-run go-ahead third for the Reds, who got four RBIs with two outs after totaling six runs the previous three games.
Rasmus singled, homered and doubled in his first three at-bats before grounding out in the eighth against Arthur Rhodes.
The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games and escaped what would have been an even bigger lost. Albert Pujols caught his foot in the dirt while sliding into second on his first-inning RBI double.
"You guys didn't see me come out of the game," Pujols said. "All I know is I'm going to be in the lineup tomorrow and that's it."
Opponents are hitting .303 against Wellemeyer, who lasted five innings and left trailing 4-2. Wellemeyer faced the minimum through three innings with the help of catcher Jason LaRue's pickoff of Brandon Phillips in the first before running into trouble. He is 2-4 with a 5.35 ERA in seven starts at home.
The Cardinals jumped on Volquez in the first with consecutive one-out doubles by Rasmus and Pujols and led 2-0 after Rasmus' homer off a 2-0 pitch from Lincoln in the third. Catcher Ryan Hanigan's first passed ball of the season handed the Cardinals a run in the seventh to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Notes:@ Cardinals OF Rick Ankiel was doubled off first to end the sixth when he failed to re-touch second base while retreating and the Reds appealed. ... Reds 2B Jerry Hairston, suffering from flu-like symptoms, was not in the lineup. OF Willy Taveras missed his third straight start with a tight right hamstring, but manager Dusty Baker anticipated he might play on Tuesday. ... Cardinals reliever Blaine Boyer, acquired from the Braves in mid-April after being designated for assignment, has allowed 13 earned runs in 12 2-3 innings. ... Pujols is 3 for 7 with two homers and five RBIs against Volquez. ... Pujols leads the majors with 42 walks, including 16 in the last nine games. ... Cordero has allowed one earned run in 14 innings his last 14 appearances. ... 3B Joe Thurston was 3 for 3 with two doubles for the Cardinals.