ST. LOUIS -- Playing spoiler to the much-anticipated starting debut of Cardinals rookie Alex Reyes, the A's scratched away for three unanswered runs to even their series at Busch Stadium with a 3-2 victory on Saturday night. For the Cardinals, the loss not only delayed their shot at securing their first home series win in more than a month, but it also left them unable to pad a 1 1/2-game lead over the Marlins for the second National League Wild Card spot.
Oakland took its first lead in the eighth, an inning started by reliever Matt Bowman. After Bowman allowed a pair of one-out hits, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny turned to his closer, Seung Hwan Oh, for a five-out save. Oh couldn't complete it. Max Muncy's hard grounder to first baseman Brandon Moss was enough to score Khris Davis from third to tie the game, and the Cardinals lost a chance to at least retire Muncy when Moss gambled with a throw home.
His off-line throw allowed the run to score, and Brett Eibner followed with the go-ahead sacrifice fly. More >>
"Right there, our defense is set up and designed to get the out at first and concede that run," Moss said. "I dove and when I came up with it, I don't know why, but for some stupid reason I saw that if I made a throw I had a chance to still get him at home. I don't know why that instinct took over, but I guess it's because you know that's the tying run. A huge, huge mistake right there on my part, especially because I went completely against everything our defense was set up to do."
That lead was locked down by an A's bullpen that covered three scoreless innings and struck out six behind starter Zach Neal, who went a career-high six innings. The victory improved the team's Interleague record to 6-13 and ended a string of three straight losses in one-run decisions.
"As a starting pitcher, that's your goal, to get as deep in the game as you can and keep your team within reach, and to be able to do that is to kind of check off my goal for the night there," Neal said. "I was probably executing a little better and got a lot of ground balls." More >>
Reyes pitched the Cardinals into position for the win, though he was pulled one out shy of being eligible for it. Despite some command issues that contributed to four walks and a pitch count of 89 over 4 2/3 innings, Reyes showcased well in a spot start for Mike Leake, who is sidelined by shingles. After opening his career with 14 scoreless innings, Reyes lost his zero ERA when reliever Zach Duke walked home an inherited run to pull the A's within one.
"My command could have been better," Reyes said. "Four walks. I wasn't able to get deep in the game. I tried to execute pitches as best as I can. It didn't work my way, but hopefully next time it will."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Streak snapped: Reyes was pulled one out away from qualifying for a win, which, had he gotten it, would have made him the fourth pitcher Cardinals pitcher in the last 35 years to win a start before turning 22. Reyes then watched from the bench as his scoreless innings streak was snapped. Duke inherited two runners from Reyes, hit another and then walked in the A's first run. It was charged to Reyes, who hadn't been scored upon in his first five big-league appearances.
"He's got a great career ahead of him," Duke said of Reyes. "Amazing arm, very poised, very polished. I'm upset I ended his scoreless innings streak, but he's got a very bright future. It hurts. You know he's throwing the ball so well, you don't want that to end." More >>
Cards get assist from Healy: Neal induced a sharp grounder off the bat of Stephen Piscotty with runners at the corners and two outs in the third, but A's rookie third baseman Ryon Healy booted the ball, which ricocheted toward the middle of the diamond as Greg Garcia easily scored from third to increase the Cardinals' lead to two runs. Healy was charged with an error on the play, his fifth in 39 games.
Taking flight:Randal Grichuk's run of extra-base hits continued when he clobbered a 431-foot solo homer off Neal to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. It was Grichuk's sixth home run and 14th extra-base hit in 14 games since returning from Triple-A. It also established a new single-season career best for Grichuk, who has hit 18 home runs this year. The blast extended the Cardinals' team home run streak to 16 games.
Comeback kid: Healy redeemed himself with a crucial hit in the eighth inning, doubling to put runners on second and third with one out and set the stage for a pair of runs that gave the A's the lead. It also extended Healy's hitting streak to 13 games, which is the longest active streak in the Majors.
"I expect those things out of him. Knowing him for a short period of time and knowing what he's all about, that's not going to bother him at all," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's able to separate and go up there and get a big hit. As a matter of fact, it probably motivates him to go up there and get a hit. He was a little bit frustrated early in the game but certainly later in the game came up big, and sometimes for rookies that's tough to do."
"Alex did a good job of pitching, no doubt about it. [He was] probably guilty of overthrowing a little bit, especially early. But he had an impressive run of being able to make some tough-count pitches and really using his secondary stuff to get him out of trouble. It's not something that you normally see from a kid's first start." -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny
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Reyes' scoreless innings streak was the third longest in franchise history by a pitcher beginning his Cardinals career. The longer two belong to Von McDaniel (19 innings in 1957) and Pat Perry (16 1/3 innings in 1985).
WHAT'S NEXT A's: The A's will close out this three-game series in St. Louis with right-hander Andrew Triggs on the mound in Sunday's finale, scheduled for 11:15 a.m. PT. Triggs has a 2.41 ERA in four starting assignments, most recently tossing six scoreless innings against the Indians on Monday.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will play their final Interleague game of the season on Sunday as the A's wrap up their trip to town at 1:10 p.m. CT. Jaime Garcia will make the start for St. Louis. He'll be pitching where he's most comfortable, too, as Garcia's 3.66 home ERA is nearly two runs lower than it is on the road.