Cards grab much-needed win vs. Cubs

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[September 14, 2016]  ST. LOUIS -- For St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, the second inning of Tuesday night's game was that moment where you break glass in case of emergency.

Struggling starter Jaime Garcia had just walked Dexter Fowler to load the bases for Kris Bryant and his 37 homers. The Chicago Cubs led 2-0 and St. Louis couldn't afford to let this one get away right away.

"We were up against the wall," Matheny said.

Alex Reyes maneuvered the Cardinals away from that wall with a four-pitch strikeout of Bryant, then wriggled in and out of one jam after another while the offense used its familiar means of attack to produce a vital 4-2 win at Busch Stadium.

In upping its record to 76-68 and staying within a half-game of the New York Mets, a 4-3 winner in Washington, for the National League's second wild-card spot, St. Louis tightroped through the Chicago lineup as Reyes made a series of clutch pitches.

Beginning with a 98 mph fastball that blew Bryant away in the second, Reyes saved his best for the toughest spots. With men at second and third and one out in the third, he induced a shallow fly ball and foulout from Addison Russell and Jason Heyward, respectively.

 

In the fourth, Reyes walked the bases loaded but escaped when Jorge Soler hacked at the first pitch and flew out. The Cubs (92-52) never got a runner to scoring position after that as Reyes (2-1), Matt Bowman and Kevin Siegrist retired 16 of the final 18 men they faced, Siegrist notching his second save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Reyes issued six walks in his 4 1/3 innings, but gave up only one hit and fanned four.

"My heart was pumping, but once you're on the mound, you try to focus," Reyes said. "I was just trying to execute pitches."

Garcia, who hasn't won since August 16 in Houston, lasted just 1 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and two runs with two walks and one strikeout. It was the shortest of his 146 major league starts.

"I'm very disappointed in myself," Garcia said. "We needed the win and Reyes did an unbelievable job. I've been through tough times before and I'll continue to fight."

Offensively, the Cardinals did what they've done all year -- hit the long ball. Aledmys Diaz celebrated his return to the lineup with a two-run homer to left in the second, his 15th of the year, that erased Chicago's early advantage.

In the sixth, Brandon Moss snapped the 2-2 tie with a two-run homer to right, his 26th of the year and his first since August 25. Moss entered the night in a 1-for-41 skid.

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Cardinals left fielder Brandon Moss (37) hits a two run home run off of Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel (not pictured) during the sixth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Victimized was Jason Hammel (14-9), who was denied his third win in St. Louis this year. He gave up six hits and four runs over 5 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out a season-high nine hitters.

"It seems like every time I give up a run, it leaves the yard," said Hammel. "I'd like to give up a double to drive in a run one time. Pretty frustrating. But I felt like I pitched pretty well."

Hoping to clinch the division title before they return to Wrigley Field for a 10-game homestand that starts Thursday night, the Cubs wasted no time getting on the board. Fowler cracked a leadoff homer to center, his seventh leadoff homer of the year and his 12th long ball of the season.

Addison Russell's double down the left field line plated Ben Zobrist in the second for a two-run lead that looked like it would increase, until Matheny deemed it an emergency and Reyes showed up to douse a potential inferno.

"It was impressive, the messes he was able to work out of," Matheny said of Reyes. "I know he was frustrated with his lack of command, but he was able to make a pitch when he had to make a pitch."

NOTES: St. Louis SS Aledmys Diaz returned to the starting lineup Tuesday night for the first time since July 31, when he was hit by a pitch in Miami and fractured his right thumb. Diaz, activated on Sunday, pinch-hit Monday night. ... Chicago's consecutive seasons of 90-plus wins is the first time that's happened since an eight-season run from 1904-11. ... Cardinals RHP Trevor Rosenthal (right shoulder inflammation) threw live batting practice Tuesday and could be activated later this week. Rosenthal has been sidelined since July 26.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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