Opening Day at Busch Stadium

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes (29) pitches during Cardinals opening day on Friday, April 5, 2019 at Busch Stadium. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

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Andrew Miller’s Busch Stadium debut hardly could have gone worse. The free-agent signee from Cleveland had been inconsistent on the road but he was just bad on Saturday.

Miller allowed a pair of two-run homers in the eighth inning to San Diego’s Austin Hedges and Manny Machado. The second came after first baseman Paul Goldschmidt over-ran a foul popup to keep Ian Kinsler alive and shortstop Paul DeJong couldn't hang onto the tag after taking Goldschmidt's throw when Miller caught Kinsler off first. 

A 3-2 Cardinals lead quickly evaporated and the veteran lefthanded reliever heard the boos after the second homer.

The Padres held on for a 6-4 victory, their second here in two days. San Diego is 16-31 here since Busch Stadium III opened in 2006 but the Padres are 6-2 here the past three seasons, winning three consecutive series at Busch.  

In 3 1/3 innings this year, Miller has given up six runs (four earned), walked four and permitted three home runs.

After the game, the Cardinals made their first revealing move of the season by optioning pitcher Alex Reyes to Class AAA Memphis. His role with the Redbirds will be determined, but the team wants to make sure he gets regular work and consistent innings so that he can find a command he's lacked in high-leverage spots.

Reyes had allowed five runs and six walks in three innings this season.

Later last evening, infielder Yairo Munoz, who is one for four so far this season, was told he, too, was being optioned to Memphis. This means the Cardinals will go with just four extra men and 13 pitchers for the moment. One pitcher almost sure to come up is  rigthander Daniel Ponce de Leon, who was due to start Sunday for Memphis. There are two lefthanded relievers on the 40-man roster, either of whom might come up, in Genesis Cabrera and veteran Tyler Webb.

Manager Mike Shildt, without confirming anything _ the moves will be announced Sunday _ said the club needed immediate help for the bullpen, giving how often the relievers have been used so far.

"We need to make sure we're fresh," said Shildt.

Shildt, speaking of Miller, said, "He's making good pitches, and just not making enough of them." 

For his part, Miller said, "I need to do my job. I need to throw more strikes. The free passes are killing me."

Marcell Ozuna hit a 455-foot, two-run homer for the Cardinals. Dexter Fowler reached base four times although he ran into an out on one occasion. And Michael Wacha somehow navigated eight walks in giving up just one run in 5 2/3 innings.

Wacha struck out seven in throwing a career-high-tying seven 119 pitches. Goldschmidt went nothing for five, besides his error.

• BOX SCORE: Padres 6, Cardinals 4


OZUNA GOES VERY DEEP

Marcell Ozuna had had only one extra-base hit in the Cardinals’ first eight games. But when saw a 3-2 slider, at 82 mph, from former Cardinals farmhand Robert Stock in the fifth inning, Ozuna landed on it for 455 feet worth of two-run homer as the Cardinals took their first lead of the game over the San Diego Padres at 3-1.

Matt Carpenter singled to open the Cardinals’ fifth and tagged up and belly-flopped into second after Paul Goldschmidt had flied to deep right. Paul DeJong fanned before Ozuna cracked his first homer of the season deep into the left-field seats. 

John Gant bailed starter Michael Wacha out of a two-on, two-out spot in the sixth by getting Ian Kinsler to foul out. Wacha walked a career-high eight, yet fanned seven while allowing just three hits and one run while throwing a career-high-tying 119 pitches. 

Gant allowed Eric Hosmer's homer in the seventh but the Cardinals took a 3-2 lead into the eighth. 

WACHA WALKS ON WILD SIDE 

Cardinals righthander Michael Wacha was making it hard on himself, walking six San Diego hitters in the first three innings on Saturday at Busch Stadium. But only one of those walks scored as the teams were tied 1-1 in the fourth.

The Cardinals were helped by an error on San Diego second baseman Ian Kinsler when they scored their run in the second. Yadier Molina, who had been two for 28, singled and went to third when Kinsler, trying to backhand Dexter Fowler’s grounder and then start a double play, whiffed and the ball went into the outfield.

Molina went to third but when the throw from the outfield went to third baseman Manny Machado, Fowler started for second bse and eventually was run down. Molina, with nobody out when the play started, held at third, and came home on Kolten Wong’s sacrifice fly which gave Wong seven runs batted in over the Cardinals’ first eight games.

San Diego pitchers Chris Paddack and Robert Stock walked a total of five in the first four frames and none of those scored. 

REYES ROLE UNCERTAIN 

No one quite knew what role Alex Reyes would play for the Cardinals _ starter or bullpen _ and that question isn’t any closer to being answered after Reyes’ first four outings. The young righthander has been limited to three innings, allowing five runs and walking six in his first extended action in two years.

“It’s been a while since he’s been able to get into consistent competition,” said manager Mike Shildt. “And we’re asking him to do it at the big-league level, in high-leverage situations. Ultimately, that’s the decision I make.

“I have a lot of confidence in Alex and we’ll always have confidence in Alex. He’s a special young man with special stuff and skill sets.”

But Shildt admitted “it’s a tough spot, to have a guy to get the work that he needs to get at this level. There’s always a re-thinking as to how a guy is being used.

“You want to stay patient and you want to have confidence in guys. We don’t want to ever over-react but we don’t want to under-react either.”

In short, Shildt said, “This game’s about consistency.”

When asked if Reyes would do better with multiple-inning stints, Shildt answered, tellingly, “Your ability to being stretched out is based on your efficiency. ”

“Ultimately, it gets back to controlling counts and being efficient.”

Reyes walked three of the seven San Diego Padres he faced on Friday and allowed a homer to another.

There had been talk of Reyes, who has had elbow and shoulder surgeries the last two seasons, starting at some point this season so that he would be ready to start next year. And president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has said he didn’t want to look up and see that Reyes had only 50 innings pitched at the end of this season.

Shildt said, “That’s a crystal ball I don’t have right now. I still feel like he’s got the ability to do it. There’s a lot of different moving parts to that _ whether we have a team need for that. It could always be a possibility

“But I can’t say that right now we’re looking to say, ‘How are going to figure out a way to get Alex Reyes to start at the end of the season?’ Right now, we’re evaluating what he’s doing, how he’s doing it and where he fits in.”

Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

rhummel@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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