After record streak, Cardinals undone by one hanging slider

Sports

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) leaves the field after the Los Angeles Dodgers won a National League Wild Card playoff baseball game 3-1 Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — That record streak in September meant little for the St. Louis Cardinals in a postseason that ended with one hanging slider.

Alex Reyes served up a game-ending home run to Chris Taylor just after entering in the ninth inning, a drive that gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a 3-1 win in the NL wild-card game Wednesday night and sent the Cardinals home.

Reyes, a 27-year-old right-hander, was summoned after T.J. McFarland walked Cody Bellinger with two outs.

Bellinger stole second, Reyes fell behind 2-1 and Taylor sent a no-doubt drive 420 feet and several rows deep into the left field pavilion.

Cardinals teammate Adam Wainwright gave Reyes a big hug in the clubhouse after the game.

“I told him I loved him, and I told him we loved him,” Wainwright said. “That’s all you can say. He probably doesn’t want to hear any of it. But he has an incredible future ahead of him, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.”

Reyes was an All-Star this season and converted his first 24 career save chances to set a major league record. But on July 20 he blew a lead against the Chicago Cubs, and by early September lost his closer’s job.

As the crowd of 53,193 celebrated the finish of the first postseason game at Dodger Stadium with fans in two years, Reyes walked toward the dugout with his head down. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt gave him a pat.

“We’re not here without Alex Reyes,” Shildt said.

St. Louis was under .500 as late as Aug. 10 and didn’t take off until a franchise-record 17-game winning streak in September. The Cardinals closed with a 19-3 rush to claim the second NL wild card.

They hit over .300 with runners in scoring position during their streak but were 0 for 11 in those situations against the Dodgers, stranding 11 overall.

Tommy Edman had three of the Cardinals’ five hits. Wainwright, at 40 matched up against 37-year-old Max Scherzer, threw 59 of 95 pitches for strikes but allowed only four hits, including Justin Turner’s leadoff homer in the fourth, and lasted 5 1/3 innings.

“I felt we had a team that was going to win the World Series, honestly,” Wainwright said. “We played a good team tonight.”

Turner’s homer countered the Cardinals’ run in the first, when Edman scored on a wild pitch.

Hours later, the Dodgers readied for a Division Series matchup with rival San Francisco. The Cardinals headed home, still seeking their first title since 2011.

“What a great team we can be when we play like we’re supposed to, and we played like that down the stretch,” Wainwright said. “We didn’t win, but we made them nervous, didn’t we?”

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