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Cubs rally with six runs in ninth inning, beat Cardinals 7-6

The Cardinals went into the ninth inning with a 6-1 lead over the Cubs
Credit: AP
St. Louis Cardinals' Jose Rondon watches his home run during the sixth inning of the team's baseball game against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Joe Puetz)

ST. LOUIS — In a season that so far has been filled with one frustrating loss after another for the Cardinals, what happened Tuesday night added the extra element of cruelty.

The Cardinals went into the ninth inning with a 6-1 lead over the Cubs at Busch Stadium. Johan Oviedo was standing in the dugout, waiting for three more outs so he could finally celebrate his first major-league victory.

Instead, as Oviedo could alternately only sit or stand and watch, the bullpen imploded, including Alex Reyes’ first career blown save, as the Cubs scored six runs to pull off the unlikely victory.

The inning began with Luis Garcia on the mound. A wild pitch on strike three allowed Patrick Wisdom to reach base, just the beginning of perhaps the worst inning of the season for the Cardinals.

Garcia failed to retire either of the next two hitters he faced and with the bases loaded, the game suddenly in a save situation, Reyes was quickly summoned from the bullpen when just minutes earlier it seemed almost certain he would have the night off.

Reyes, who had set the major-league record with his 24th consecutive save to start his career on Sunday, walked two batters with the bases loaded sandwiched around a strikeout before Javier Baez delivered a two-run single that cut the lead to 6-5. Ian Happ, who had replaced Kris Bryant earlier in the game, then lined a two-run double into the right field corner to put the Cubs in front.

For Oviedo, the big rally meant that his streak without a win in the majors reached 17 consecutive starts. He had come out of the game with a 4-1 lead after allowing a leadoff single in the sixth.

“It’s a real gosh-darn shame that this guy didn’t get his first major-league win tonight,” said manager Mike Shildt. “He earned it in every facet. He pitched extremely well. He was really, really good; gave us five strong innings and left with the lead. You can’t ask for much more than that. He did his part, no question about it.”

Oviedo, who had made one start in Memphis over the All-Star break before rejoining the major-league team on Tuesday – getting the win – knew he could not have come much closer to a win without getting it than he did in this game.

“I was happy because I gave the team a chance to win the game,” he said. “Still got a lot of games to pitch. I will have more chances. If I give my team a chance to win that’s what really matters.”

The Cardinals had been 38-0 this season when leading going to the ninth inning.

Here is how Tuesday night’s game broke down:

At the plate: The Cardinals built their lead on an RBI double by Dylan Carlson in the third and a three-run fourth, sparked by a leadoff homer from Nolan Arenado. Harrison Bader and Oviedo also delivered run-scoring singles in the inning … Home runs from Tommy Edman and pinch-hitter Jose Rondon in the sixth increased the lead to 6-1 … Paul Goldschmidt’s single in the seventh extended his hitting streak to 15 games.

On the mound: Oviedo allowed just three hits as he pitched into the sixth inning. He only issued one intentional walk and struck out five. The only run he allowed came when he hit Bryant with a pitch leading off the second and he later scored on a groundout … Genesis Cabrera had to pitch his way out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth, when he walked two batters to load the bases, to preserve the 4-1 lead … Ryan Helsley worked a 1-2-3 seventh and Justin Miller did the same in the eighth to get the game to the ninth with the Cardinals holding the five-run lead.

Key stat: In his previous 40 games this season before Tuesday night, including his 22 consecutive saves, Reyes had not given up more than two runs. This also was the first game when he allowed two hits, having held opponents to a .153 average.

Worth noting: If Miles Mikolas recovers well after throwing live batting practice before Tuesday night’s game, the next step in his recovery will be a minor-league rehab assignment, likely beginning this weekend … With Ryan Holgate (competitive balance round) and Austin Love (third round) agreeing to terms, the Cardinals have only one unsigned pick from the top 10 rounds of last week’s draft – high school right-hander Alec Willis, selected in the seventh round … To make room for Oviedo on the roster, reliever Junior Fernandez was optioned to Memphis.

Looking ahead: Adam Wainwright will get the start on Wednesday night, the third of the four games against the Cubs.