ST. LOUIS -- As troublesome as Monday's late-inning meltdown was for a team trying to prove itself a formidable National League Central contender against the defending division champs, the Cardinals ensured the message was sent in booming fashion on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Cardinals scored 15 unanswered runs over the past two games and chased the Reds out of town with a 10-0 win in front of 34,882 at Busch Stadium. The offense, which blasted four homers in the game, didn't monopolize the limelight either. Jake Westbrook took his portion, throwing his first shutout in seven seasons to secure the series victory for his club.
"These are the teams that we have to beat in order for us to put ourselves in good shape," Carlos Beltran said. "It's early in the year, but Cincinnati is a good team. It felt good to be able to go out there and win the series against them."
Reds starter Homer Bailey matched Westbrook zero-for-zero through four innings before being ambushed by the St. Louis offense when the batting order turned over for the third time in the game.
In the span of 11 batters, the Cardinals built an 8-0 lead behind four home runs -- three coming against Bailey.
"The thing that I was happy about from the whole group was we didn't panic," said Matt Carpenter, who tied his career high with four hits. "We just kept sticking with what we know we can do, and eventually they started throwing us some balls we can hit."
The Cardinals feature a lineup packed with power potential, as they returned five players who finished the 2012 season with at least 20 home runs. Yet, little of that power had surfaced during the season's first eight games, with the Cardinals connecting for just five home runs.
That total began to balloon in the fifth, which started innocuously enough for Bailey before Jon Jay popped a two-out solo homer just over the wall in center. From there, the onslaught was on. After consecutive hits by Carpenter and Matt Holliday, Beltran delivered his first home run of the season to make it 4-0.
Matt Adams, inserted into the starting lineup a day after delivering a game-winning hit, smashed a two-run shot in the sixth. Before that inning closed, Carpenter joined the parade with his own two-run homer.
"We've seen different ways of winning a couple games, and we really hadn't seen that power jump," manager Mike Matheny said. "Just because we know it's there doesn't mean it's something that we feel we have to go out and display. But it naturally happens some days, and today was a nice day for it to come around."
Seven of the eight runs scored during the two-inning span would be charged to Bailey, snapping a 23 2/3-inning scoreless streak that dated back to last season. By the end of the runaway win, everyone in the starting lineup -- including Westbrook -- had tallied at least one hit. Adams matched his career high with three RBIs, adding the last on a seventh-inning RBI double.
For Adams and Carpenter -- who combined to reach base seven times -- the production only further substantiates calls to keep the two integrally involved in the lineup.
That'll be a bit easier with Carpenter, whose versatility will open regular starts for him in the infield. The challenge is greater with Adams, who plays behind Allen Craig at first base. Adams has shown, though, that he'll reward Matheny for his lineup creativity. With Wednesday's two-hit game, Adams is now 9-for-14 to start the season.
"It's something I pride myself in," Adams said. "I want to give the team and myself the best at-bats that I possibly can."
"Since the day [Adams] signed as a Cardinal, he's put up phenomenal numbers," added Carpenter, who, along with Adams, leads the team with seven RBIs. "I've never seen him not mash the baseball."
While the Cardinals' offense collectively teed off, the Reds were left befuddled by Westbrook, who was able to finish what he started because of superb efficiency. Westbrook tossed just 51 pitches through the first five frames; his pitch count sat at 100 through eight.
He didn't offer Matheny the inclination to pull him there, either, reminding the Cardinals manager that he felt strong until the end of his 116-pitch outing last Friday.
Westbrook garnered 27 outs on 111 pitches Wednesday, exactly matching the pitch count from his most recent shutout, which came when he was pitching for Cleveland in 2006. Wednesday's was the 15th complete game of his career.
"I felt really good in the seventh inning of the last game, throwing 116 pitches," Westbrook said. "And I felt even better today in the ninth. It always means a lot when you finish what you started."
The Reds' only substantial threat came in the sixth, when with two outs, they advanced a pair of runners into scoring position. Westbrook answered by striking out Jay Bruce to end the frame.
"He was obviously throwing strikes, and throwing strikes with his sinker," Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. "There were some misses on our part and some good sinking pitches on his part. It was a perfect storm of a complete-game shutout. You need a little bit of luck, you need some skill and that's exactly what happened today. I thought he threw fantastic, competed well, and I wasn't particularly surprised by that because he definitely has that capability."
With Westbrook picking up the win, all five St. Louis starters have secured their first victory of the season.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.