Rookie Alex Reyes and Brandon Moss came to the St. Louis Cardinals’ rescue Tuesday.
Reyes relieved ineffective left-hander Jaime Garcia in the second inning and blanked the Chicago Cubs over the next 4 1/3 and the slumping Moss clubbed a tie-breaking home run in the sixth in the Cardinals’ come-from-behind 4-2 victory.
The Cardinals (76-68) remained one-half game behind the New York Mets (77-68) for the second NL wild-card berth. The Mets outlasted Washington 4-3 in 10 innings.
Garcia entered the game in a slump and remained on shaky footing with a 1 2/3-innings performance, the shortest start of his career. He allowed two runs on three hits, walked two, struck out one and permitted Dexter Fowler’s leadoff home run in the first.
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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny pulled Garcia after Addison Russell’s RBI double, pitcher Jason Hammel’s infield single and Fowler’s walk that loaded the bases in the second.
Reyes came in firing and struck out Kris Bryant with the bases loaded, and the Cubs from that point managed just one more hit – a single by Bryant against Reyes in the sixth.
Reyes experienced control problems, walking six, but avoided hard contact.
“I threw a lot of pitches,” said Reyes (2-1), who found the strike zone on just 43 of his 85 pitches. “I was kind of all over the place, but at the end of the day, what’s important is giving your team a chance to win and trying to put zeroes on the board.”
I threw a lot of pitches. I was kind of all over the place, but at the end of the day, what’s important is giving your team a chance to win and trying to put zeroes on the board.
Cardinals rookie Alex Reyes, who posted the win
The at-bat against Bryant, one of the leading contenders for the NL Most Valuable Player award, was the turning point of the game. The Cubs already led 2-0, and a hit by Bryant would have made it at least 4-0.
“Yadi (Molina) does a good job behind the plate,” Reyes said. “If anybody knows how to attack a hitter, I believe it’s Yadi. I just trusted what he put down and executed the pitches.
“There was a lot of heart-pumping and stuff like that. But once you get on the mound and focus, I feel like that all kind of goes away. You remind yourself of what you’ve got to do to take care of your business.”
Reyes also stranded two runners in the third and three more in the fourth. All the runners left on base were recipients of walks.
“Alex was impressive,” Matheny said. “The messes he was able to work himself out of ... He comes in (the game) and I don’t know if there could be a more stressful situation for a young pitcher. He did a great job. He was frustrated at times with his lack of command in the strike zone, but when he got in trouble and needed to make a pitch, he made pitches. That’s pretty special.”
Matheny called it a “crazy push” to use Reyes in such a difficult assignment in the second.
“I felt he was our best chance to get out of it at that point, with the stuff he’s been throwing,” Matheny said. “I’ve considered closing him the last couple of days, too, and that’s a push. ... We’re in a spot where we’ve got to go with what we think is best. He’s been on that list.”
Matheny wouldn’t speculate on Reyes’ role in the final two-plus weeks of the regular season.
“He had a great day today. That’s how we look at Alex moving forward,” Matheny said. “We’ll figure that out later.”
Garcia, meanwhile, is 0-3 with a 9.92 ERA in his last four home starts. He denied that there’s anything wrong with him physically, although he acknowledged that his 164 2/3 innings might have taken their toll. It’s his highest total in a season since 2011.
“Possibly,” he said, adding that he will seek other solutions.
“I’m trying and trying,” he said. “All I can say is that I’m doing everything in my power to be the best I can be for my team. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do that. I let my team down.
“But I’ve been through tough times before. All I can say is I’m going to continue to do what’s in my control – continue to fight and be there for my team. I’ll figure out what’s going on.”
Garcia said he wasn’t surprised Matheny removed him, just upset with how he pitched.
“I was very disappointed in myself, but at the end, it worked out for the team,” he said. “We needed a win here. Reyes did an unbelievable job. The biggest thing is we won the game. ... It’s not the end of the world for me. I’m going to figure out what it is I need to do and continue to work.”
Matheny said the decision to lift Garcia was “hard.”
“Especially after only giving up a couple of hits there (in the second) and three to that point,” Matheny said. “We were up against the wall. That’s a swing point of that game. Alex did something special to keep us in it.”
Even though Garcia has been struggling, Matheny said there was no discussion about not starting him Tuesday.
“He keeps trying to get it right and we gave him the chance to get out there,” Matheny said. “We gave him the start. I told you five days ago I was going to.”
Will Garcia take his next turn Sunday in San Francisco?
“We’ll see,” Matheny said.
Brandon Moss, like Garcia, came into the game in a slump. Moss, who had been 1-for-41, shook the doldrums with a 2-for-3 game that featured a two-run homer in the sixth against Hammel that snapped the 2-2 tie. It tied Jedd Gyorko for the team lead with 26.
Rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz, making his first start since July 31, hit a game-tying homer against Hammel in the second that took a potential loss away from Garcia.
Matt Bowman worked a scoreless seventh and eighth and Kevin Siegrist dusted off the Cubs in order in the ninth for his second save. Siegrist filled Seung Hwan Oh’s spot as Oh recovers from a tight groin.
The Cubs’ magic number for clinching the NL Central championship remained three.
Cardinals 4, Cubs 2
Alex Reyes threw 4 1/3 shutout innings in relief of Jaime Garcia and rookie Aledmys Diaz and Brandon Moss hit two-run homers to lead the Cardinals.
By the numbers
Moss was 1-for-41 coming into the game, but finished 2-for-3 with a walk and his 26th home run. ... The home run for Diaz, his 15th, came in his first start since July 31. ... Kevin Siegrist registered his second save of the season. ... The Cubs stranded 10 runners, including eight in the second, third and fourth innings.
Carlos Martinez (14-7, 3.05 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (16-4, 2.51 ERA), 12:45 p.m. Wednesday