On what would have normally been a day off, the Tampa Bay Rays instead flew out to Kansas City to make up a May snow-out on Monday.
The Royals pounded Tampa starter, Jeremy Hellickson, for seven hits and five earned runs in just 2 2/3rd innings, then scored six more runs off a pair of Tampa bay relievers.
Leading the 13-hit assault was Billy Butler, who singled twice and homered in three at-bats, driving in three runs and scoring three times.
The game left the Royals 10 1/2 games behind the Tigers, in third place in the Central division. At 66-64, the Royals are having their best year in a long time, but still are looking up at five teams ahead of them in the hunt for two wild card positions with the number of games remaining dwindling quickly.
With the make-up game out of the way, the Royals head to Minnesota for a three-game series with the Twins. At the top of the wild card heap, the Rays return to Tropicana Field for three games with the Angels. Both series start Tuesday night.
Trailing 5-3 entering the frame, the Cardinals put runners on second and third with one out off Reds' starter, Mike Leake and then loaded the bases when reliever Manny Parra walked Matt Carpenter. Jon Jay grounded out to first, pushing across the first run of the inning. J.J. Hoover relieved Parra, walking Matt Holliday to re-load the bases, setting up Craig's opposite-field blast into the right field seats.
The Reds retaliated with a solo shot by Jay Bruce in the eighth, but could get no closer. Edward Mujica slammed the door shut, setting the Reds down in order in the ninth for his 35th save.
Craig also had a single and double in his for at-bats, his four RBI giving him 95 on the year, tying him with Brandon Phillips for second place in that department. Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt leads the league with 103.
The win gave St. Louis sole possession of first place in the NL Central, 1/2 game better than the idle Pirates. Game two of the series with the Reds begins at 8:15 pm EDT on Tuesday.
Today's Trivia: Who were the four Baltimore pitchers who each won 20 games in the 1971 season? (answer tomorrow)
Yesterday's Answer: The pitcher who went 26-9 with 30 complete games (no, that's not a typo) was Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants. Despite his stellar season, Marichal did not receive the NL Cy Young award. That went to St; Louis hurler, Bob Gibson, who, like Denny McLain in the AL, was also the league's MVP.