Anthony DeSclafani has figured out how to handle the Cardinals — go right at them.

The rookie handled St. Louis for the second straight start, striking out a career-high nine, and the Cincinnati Reds turned a big first inning off John Lackey into a 3-2 victory Tuesday night.

DeSclafani (7-7), the most experienced member of Cincinnati's all-rookie rotation with 20 starts, gave up seven hits and two runs in six innings. Last Wednesday in St. Louis, DeSclafani gave up only three hits in seven innings of a 1-0 win over the NL Central leaders.

"Same approach," manager Bryan Price said. "He has good stuff and he trusts it. It's more attitude than anything. I don't think he has any fear."

Aroldis Chapman fanned two in the ninth — his fastball topping out at 101 mph — for his 23rd save in 24 chances. The lefty has converted 56 consecutive save opportunities at Great American Ball Park since his last failure in September 2012.

The Reds scored three runs in the first inning off Lackey (9-7), who hadn't allowed that many runs in any of his last nine starts. He went six innings, giving up six hits.

The Cardinals have dominated the Reds in recent years, winning 14 of their last 17 series. The Reds had a bit of a breakthrough in St. Louis last week, taking two of three — their first series win at Busch Stadium since 2001.

"It's fun playing the Cards and Pirates," center fielder Billy Hamilton said, referring to the last two opponents. "We get so motivated playing those guys. DeSclafani did a good job pitching and the defense had his back."

They got a good start on extending that success with the big first inning. Jay Bruce had an RBI double — his fifth double in the last six games — and Marlon Byrd followed with another double as Cincinnati sent eight batters to the plate.

After that five-hit, 30-pitch inning, Lackey settled in and allowed only an infield single through the next five innings, retiring the last 14 batters he faced.

Randal Grichuk tripled off the wall in center field and Matt Carpenter hit his 14th homer in the third inning, cutting it to 3-2. It was Carpenter's fourth homer in the last five games.

"I didn't do anything different," DeSclafani said. "Any time you can pitch with that early cushion, you're more relaxed. You don't have to nibble as much."