Sunday’s Game Report: Cardinals 2, Giants 1

Sunday’s Game Report: Cardinals 2, Giants 1

By Rob Rains

It was a record nearly five years in the making, a record that Alex Reyes never aspired to back when he was a rookie dreaming of a future with the Cardinals as a starting pitcher, not a reliever.

That may still be his future, perhaps next year, but if Reyes does make that change he will have a nice little item about his career as a closer on his resume to take with him.

Getting the save on Sunday against the Giants at Busch Stadium allowed Reyes to set the major-league record for most consecutive saves at the start of a career.

He had shared the old record of 23 with LaTroy Hawkins for about 19 hours, about the time he said he first heard about the record as he was leaving the stadium on Saturday night.

“A few people walking out of the stadium said, ‘Congratulations’ and I was like, ‘we got the win,’ but that was when I kind of heard it,” Reyes said. “I try to go out there and not think about those things and just compete. I think that makes everything easier instead of thinking about a bigger picture. Stay in the moment and execute pitch by pitch.

“It’s cool, it’s an honor to be able to be able to tell my kids that one day that I was able to do something like that. It was super I would say ‘dope’ where I grew up but it was fun. It’s always fun to pitch in that situation and be able to get a save is always big.”

Reyes earned his first career save on Aug. 19, 2016 at Philadelphia, in his fourth career game with the Cardinals, before injuries put his career on hold for most of the next three years. He earned his second save last season, then came into this year entrenched in the closer role – both because of need, and because of a desire to control the number of innings the team wanted him to pitch.

There have been a few wobbles – mostly because of walks, like the two he issued with one out on Sunday – but each time Reyes has come into the game with a save on the line he has completed the task.

“It’s a phenomenal record, good for him,” said manager Mike Shildt. “That’s an impressive record. He earned it, that’s for sure. He’s just done a fantastic job for us. Is it more special because he’s overcome the adversity he’s overcome? Probably. Anytime you hold a major league record for anything it says something in this game.

Reyes’ 22-of-22 save streak to start this season left him just one save away from breaking Tom Henke’s franchise record for the most consecutive saves to start a season, set in 1995.

“We put him in that role for a reason,” Shildt said.

Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:

At the plate: Paul DeJong put the Cardinals in front with a homer leading off the third, his 13th of the season. His fly out to right in the seventh also was important, moving pinch-runner Jose Rondon from second to third. The inning had begun with a leadoff double from Matt Carpenter … Rondon then scored on a checked-swing grounder by Harrison Bader, which he was able to beat out for an infield single … The Cardinals had just three hits through the first six innings, including a single by Paul Goldschmidt that extended his current streak to 13 consecutive games, the longest by a Cardinal hitter this season … The Cardinals are now 6-17 this season when they scored two runs.

On the mound: Wade LeBlanc gave up the Giants only run on a solo homer by Darren Ruf leading off the fourth … He came out of the game after allowing back-to-back singles in the sixth before Ryan Helsley was able to strand the runners, getting an inning-ending strikeout with the bases loaded … Genesis Cabrera and Giovanny Gallegos protected the lead in the seventh and eighth before Reyes took over to start the ninth.

Key stat: After hitting .165 in April, .205 in May and .148 in June, DeJong is off to a much better start in July, posting a .378 average (14-of-37) in the first 12 games this month, including three homers.

Worth noting: Less than a week after the amateur draft, the Cardinals have signed six of their 11 picks from the top 10 rounds – and have spent about $1.2 million less than the assigned slot  value of those picks. Their biggest pick still to sign is high school outfielder Joshua Baez, their second-round selection, which has a slot value of $1.34 million … Shildt confirmed that Jake Woodford will get the start on Monday night but said Tuesday night’s starter is still to be determined. The favorite to start is Johan Oviedo, who also will have to be recalled from Memphis … Tommy Edman was not in the starting lineup on Sunday after going 2-of-23 in his last six games. He flew out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, then played the last two innings at second base.

Looking ahead: Woodford was optioned to Memphis on June 28 so he could be stretched out as a starter and he returns in that role for the opener of the four-game series against the Cubs at Busch Stadium. He mader three starts at Triple A, throwing 65 and 83 pitches in his last two games. He will be making his second career start for the Cardinals and will be the 10th pitcher to start a game this season.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.