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Cardinals lose Kim to back injury and also fall to Reds 6-4
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Cardinals lose Kim to back injury and also fall to Reds 6-4

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Another Cardinals outing by a starting pitcher was short-circuited by injury, when lefthander Kwang Hyun Kim exited after throwing one warmup pitch before the fourth inning Friday night at Busch Stadium. Kim, trailing Cincinnati 3-0 in a game the Cardinals lost 6-4, left because of lower back tightness.

This was not a new injury for Kim, who had been set back in spring training by back stiffness and had begun the season on the injured list. Manager Mike Shildt said Kim didn’t feel it was as severe as his previous ailment, which was in the same spot.

“The last time he was locked up and he couldn’t move at all,” Shildt said.

This injury didn’t occur while Kim was pitching, though. Kim said he felt something was amiss when he stepped on first base trying unsuccessfully to beat out a third-inning grounder behind the mound, fielded by shortstop Kyle Farmer.

“He felt like he jarred it a little bit when he hit the bag,” Shildt said.

Earlier in the week, of course, staff ace Jack Flaherty had gone out for probably a couple of months because of a torn oblique muscle. Nine days before that, righthander Miles Mikolas had to leave his first outing of the season after a recurrence of a flexor tendon problem. With Kim likely to miss a scheduled start or two, the Cardinals’ rotation is in further shambles, with rookie Johan Oviedo, up and down several times this season, making another attempt to gain his first big-league victory Saturday afternoon.

In the top of the third, Kim had breezed through the Reds after having a rough second inning. Kim’s 89 mph fastball was swatted over the left-field twice in a span of four Cincinnati hitters in the second.

First, Tyler Stephenson clouted his third homer of the season. With one out, Kim hit Farmer with a pitch and Jonathan India ripped his fourth home run to give the Reds a 3-0 lead.

Kim had permitted only one homer in his first six starts but India’s home run was the fourth allowed by Kim in the lefthander’s past three starts.

This inning basically was enough to send the Cardinals to their third loss in succession and fifth in six games although they rallied for three runs in the ninth, two scoring on Tommy Edman’s double and another on a double by Matt Carpenter. But Paul Goldschmidt, representing the winning run, fanned on reliever Michael Feliz’s only three pitches — two sliders and a fastball.

That came an inning after Nolan Arenado, mired in a one-for-24 dive, left two runners stranded when he struck out.

“We played our tails off,” Shildt said. “We’re down 6-1 in the ninth and the next thing you know, you’ve got the winning run at the plate.”

His club played highlight-type defense, with the exception of a bad decision reliever Junior Fernandez made in the ninth inning when the Reds scored what proved to be two critical runs. The second came when Fernandez, after fielding speedy Shogo Akiyama’s tapper, tried unwisely to start a double play via second base as another runner trotted home from third. Akiyama was safe at first easily on the back end.

“(Fernandez) has to check (the runner from third),” Shildt said. “It’s a tough play. Chopper. Not a ball you’re going to get two on. Yeah, we’d like to see him check the plate. But we got six more innings out of our bullpen.”

That last run proved pivotal because if the Cardinals had been down only 5-4 in the ninth, third-base coach “Pop” Warner would have waved home Edman. He probably would have scored on a single by Dylan Carlson, who had three hits.

Luis Castillo, who had been 1-8, wasn’t exactly fooling the Cardinals early on. Goldschmidt lined to right in the first and Tyler O’Neill and Carpenter lined full-count pitches to second baseman India in the second with Yadier Molina on first with a leadoff walk.

But Castillo an All-Star in 2019, retired 10 men in succession from the second into the fifth. That was before Edmundo Sosa launched his first major-league home run. Sosa clubbed a changeup 419 feet to left on Castillo’s first pitch to him and merited a curtain call from the paid house of 22,756.

“It’s a beautiful sensation that I’m going to remember forever,” Sosa said through a translator.

Sosa’s drive could have been a game-turner and so could have left fielder O’Neill’s spectacular sliding catch of Akiyama’s foul ball as O’Neill banged into the low box-seat wall in the sixth. O’Neill’s cap came off his head after he rammed the wall but the ball remained in his glove and O’Neill remained in the game.

“He seems to be OK,” Shildt said. “I’ve got to go check on the wall, though.

“This guy’s a straight ‘baller,’ man. That’s as a good play as you’re going to see.”

The Reds reversed that momentum in the sixth when Castillo, who was hitting eighth, sailed a double over the head of center-fielder Carlson and off the wall. India, who had walked with two out, scored the Reds’ fourth run, charged to Seth Elledge, and lefthander Andrew Miller, who had been out with a right foot injury, made his first relief appearance since April 29.

The Cardinals had just three hits for six innings off Castillo before Castillo was relieved. When Miller hit Akiyama in the backside with a pitch in the seventh, the Cardinals had hit four Reds batsmen after plunking three the night before. The Cardinals already had a wide lead in the major leagues in this department.

“I don’t love it,” Shildt said. “But, clearly, zero of it was intentional. It happens.”

But Miller, pitching his longest regular-season stint in 10 years at 2 1/3 innings, dodged trouble in the seventh when he allowed a single, a double and walked a man intentionally with the help of a double play on lefthanded-batting Jesse Winker. Miller, who had to battle a blister on a toe on his right foot, said he had altered his mechanics while even walking, let along pitching, because of the discomfort.

“I just fell into some bad habits and had to look at various film to find out what I was doing wrong,” he said. “It takes time. I’m incredibly grateful to our coaching staff and training staff for helping me through this.”

The bullpen, especially the middle relief underbelly of it, will have to be replenished overnight from Memphis, Shildt suggested.

“With modern technologies, if we need it, we can make it happen,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw somebody else who could come in and maybe help us” Saturday.

Lefthander Bernardo Flores Jr., who walked two hitters and allowed a hit in his only outing with the Cardinals this season, was scheduled to pitch for Memphis on Saturday so he could be promoted as he is on the 40-man roster.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman looks at the National League leader for first-inning hits, Tommy Edman of the Cardinals (and team leader in steals, too). And, as always, Hochman chooses a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented Monday-Friday by The Milliken Hand Rehabilitation Center.

Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

rhummel@post-dispatch.com

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