ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Chris Carpenter won his duel with opposing pitcher Johnny Cueto to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 1-0 victory over bitter National League Central rivals Cincinnati on Monday.
Carpenter pitched eight scoreless innings to win his third start in a row and help the Cardinals (46-40) carve out a one-game division lead, three clear of the Reds (43-43).
The teams have had their share of battles over the last couple of years, including a nasty brawl last season that saw Cueto kick two Cardinals players.
Cueto (5-3) finally allowed the game's only run in the eighth inning on an in-field single from pinch-hitter Mark Hamilton.
Hamilton hit a ball down the third base line and had to slide head-first into first base in order to beat the throw from Cincinnati's Scott Rolen, allowing Colby Rasmus to cross home plate for the winning run.
"(Rolen) made an unbelievable play on me, so I just had to get on my horse and get down the line, honestly the dive was just one of those spur-of-the-moment things," Hamilton told reporters.
"It's almost like I could feel the ball coming from Rolen at third, and I felt like I had to do something to get there."
Cardinals closer Fernando Salas preserved the lead in the ninth and earned his 15th save of the season.
Both teams had early chances to score during the tight contest.
The Cards' Skip Schumaker was thrown out at home plate in the third inning by Cincinnati right fielder Jay Bruce. Then Cardinals right fielder Jon Jay robbed Bruce of a possible homer in the fourth where he leapt to make a catch at the top of the wall.
Meanwhile, Carpenter and Cueto matched one another for most of the day, each allowing six hits.
"That was as good as you're going to see," said Reds manager Dusty Baker of the pitching performances. "Both of them were dealing (good pitches). You hate to lose a game like that on a little jam-shot."
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)