Thursday’s Game Report: Braves 8, Cardinals 4

Thursday’s Game Report: Braves 8, Cardinals 4

By Rob Rains

The Cardinals have had a lot of games this season they would like to forget, put perhaps none were as demoralizing as the way they lost to the Braves Thursday night at Busch Stadium.

They had a 4-2 lead with two outs in the eighth. Austin Riley’s two-run, two-strike homer off Giovanny Gallegos tied it, but the worst was yet to come.

A double by Dansby Swanson knocked Gallegos out of the game – which he was pitching after allowing three runs in a 28-pitch outing on Wednesday night – and Alex Reyes took over.

The Braves didn’t get another hit in the inning, and scored four more runs as Reyes hit the first batter he faced before issuing four consecutive walks, three of which came with the bases loaded.

According to MLB research, Reyes is the first Cardinals pitcher to walk three batters with the bases loaded in an inning since Danny Jackson on Sept. 22, 1996.

Even Justin Miller walked the first batter he faced, scoring another run and making it five consecutive walks, before he finally got of the inning.

“Clearly a very frustrating game,” said manager Mike Shildt. “The reason we’ve been as competitive as we are is because of Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes. It always hurts at the end when you have a lead and you don’t bring it home. It happened tonight and those guys are hurting. I can tell you this – I would put them in that situation any day of the week and take my chances. It just wasn’t their night.”

Reyes threw 21 pitches in the inning, only four of which were strikes.

“He just wasn’t able to get a feeling for what he was doing early on,” Shildt said. “He couldn’t find a strike pitch and wasn’t able to make adjustments. Just one of those rare nights. He proved he was human tonight. We have human moments.

“You have competition and you lose you lose but if you feel like you beat yourself, that’s a different feeling.”

The Cardinals came into the game having walked 22 hitters with the bases loaded this season, three of which had come from Reyes. He matched that total on consecutive batters as the Cardinals’ season total quickly rose to 26. It’s the most bases-loaded walks by any team in the majors since the 1999 Mariners walked 28, according to Stats Inc.

The loss was the Cardinals ninth in the last 10 games against the Braves in St. Louis dating back to 2017.

Coming into the game, the Cardinals had been 43-3 this year when they had a lead going into the eighth inning,

Here is how Thursday night’s game broke down:

At the plate: Andrew Knizner got the start behind the plate and slammed his first home run since Sept. 1, 2019, the third of his major-league career … The homer leading off the second inning was followed by an RBI single from Nolan Arenado to briefly put the Cardinals in front 2-1 … Tyler O’Neill reached on a one-out single in the sixth, his second hit of the game, and later scored on a passed ball … Paul Goldschmidt’s single drove in Tommy Edman, who had doubled, to put the Cardinals up 4-2 in the seventh … Paul DeJong was 0-of-4, extending his hitless streak to 18 at-bats. He struck out twice, giving him nine strikeouts in those 18 at-bats.

On the mound: Despite not allowing more than three runs in any of his seven starts for the Cardinals, Wade LeBlanc still does not have a win. He was in line for the victory before Riley’s home run off Gallegos tied the game in the eighth. LeBlanc worked a season-high six innings, allowing two runs on just three hits. Back-to-back walks with one out in the third led to one of the runs and the other came on Joc Pederson’s home run on an 0-2 pitch in the fourth which tied the game 2-2 … The Braves did not have another hit until Freddie Freeman singled with two outs in the eighth, just before Riley’s home run.

Key stat: Knizner’s home run gave him the same number of homers – one – as Yadier Molina has hit in his last 192 at-bats dating back to May 23.

Worth noting: Jack Flaherty is expected to throw about 75 pitches in his third rehab start on Friday night as he recovers from a torn oblique. This start will be at Double A Springfield and if it goes well, Flaherty likely will return to the Cardinals rotation next week, in time to make one start before lining him up to pitch against the Brewers between Aug. 17-19 … The Cardinals’ top prospect, Nolan Gorman, his his sixth homer since his promotion to Memphis and his 17th overall this season on Thursday night at Durham … The Cardinals’ top pick in last year’s draft, Jordan Walker, was held out of Peoria’s game on Wednesday night as a precaution after he was hit on the hand by a pitch on Tuesday night.

Looking ahead: Adam Wainwright will get the start on Friday night in the opener of the weekend series against the Royals at Busch Stadium, the first time Mike Matheny will return to St. Louis as manager of the Royals with fans in the stands.

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.