Friday’s Game Report: Cardinals 4, Royals 2
By Rob Rains
Alex Reyes only had to wait about 24 hours to get a chance to put one of the worst nights of his career behind him.
After hitting a batter and then walking four consecutive batters on Thursday night, three of them with the bases loaded, Reyes returned to the Busch Stadium mound on Friday night, handed a 4-2 lead to start the ninth inning against the Royals.
It was a much different performance, one which was a lot more like the ones earlier this season which helped Reyes set a major-league record for consecutive saves to begin a career and earn his first trip to the All-Star game.
Reyes struck out the first hitter he faced on three pitches. He retired the second hitter on a fly to center and closed out his 25th save with a popup to the shortstop as the Cardinals won the series opener against the Royals. He threw only nine pitches in the inning, eight for strikes.
“It’s always frustrating when your name is called and you’re not able to do that job,” Reyes said. “Thinking about it all night, but when you wake up the next morning it’s a new game and you’ve got to understand your team is going to need you.
“I definitely wanted to get back on the mound and go out and compete … When I was playing catch before BP that’s when the adjustments have to be made. It just comes down to finding your rhythm and executing the pitch.”
Manager Mike Shildt had no hesitation about giving the ball to Reyes the next chance he had after the rough night.
“I really wanted Alex to have the opportunity to pitch for a lot of reasons,” Shildt said. “Winners come back, bounce back, and he was dynamic again tonight.”
Adam Wainwright, who has had bad games as a closer earlier in his career, also knew what it meant for Reyes to quickly get that bad memory erased from his mind.
“It’s really important,” Wainwright said. “As a reliever, when you have a bad one, there’s two trains of thought – give the guy the day off and just completely flush it from his brain or get him right back out there and kind of prove to himself that whatever happened the night before was a fluke.
“He came out tonight on a mission, that was obvious. It was fun to see that 1-2-3 inning. That was really what he needed and what our team needed.”
Here is how Friday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: Tyler O’Neill had the first four-hit game of his career after six three-hit games earlier this season. He singled and scored in the second, homered leading off the fourth, doubled in the fifth and singled again in the eighth. The homer was his 18th of the season but only his second in his last 63 at-bats … Paul Goldschmidt also hit his 18th homer and added an RBI single. The home run was the first of the season for Goldschmidt off a lefthanded pitcher in 76 at-bats … Paul DeJong snapped an 0-of-18 streak with an RBI single in the second, producing only his 10th RBI this year that did not come on a home run.
On the mound: Adam Wainwright worked seven innings, the 12th time in his 22 starts this season he has gone at least seven. Both of the runs he allowed came in the sixth, when he gave up four consecutive hits. He also had to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, created by a hit and two walks. He threw a first-pitch strike to 19 of the 29 hitters he faced … T.J. McFarland worked a 1-2-3 eighth before turning the game over to Reyes.
Key stat: O’Neill has reached base 13 times in 16 plate appearances over the last four games, raising his season average from .264 to .286. He has 10 hits, two walks and one hit by pitch in this stretch. His only outs have come on two strikeouts and a groundout.
Worth noting: Jack Flaherty threw 75 pitches in four innings in his third, and likely final, rehab start on Friday night. Pitching at Double A Springfield he allowed three runs on three hits, including a home run. He did not walk a batter and struck out three. Assuming he does not have any health issues as he recovers from the start, Flaherty could line up to return to the rotation on either Wednesday or Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Looking ahead: Kwang Hyun Kim, who had his start pushed back to let Jon Lester and J.A. Happ make their Cardinals’ debuts earlier this week, will start the second game of this series on Saturday night.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains