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Reyes exits early as Brewers take finale

Right-hander fatigued in fourth, taken out as precaution
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

MILWAUKEE -- Alex Reyes spent weeks of rehab firing fastballs in the near-triple digits. But the readings flashed like warning signs from the radar gun at Miller Park, less than four innings into his return.

Suddenly 96 mph became 92 mph, as Reyes' highly-touted fastball suppressed to the speed of his changeup. Then it stayed there, thrice over a mysterious five-pitch stretch that sent the Cardinals' training staff to the mound with worry over his health. Though Reyes regained his velocity by the end of the frame, that glimmer of fatigue was enough to truncate his highly-anticipated season debut and ultimately overshadow a 3-2 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday.

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MILWAUKEE -- Alex Reyes spent weeks of rehab firing fastballs in the near-triple digits. But the readings flashed like warning signs from the radar gun at Miller Park, less than four innings into his return.

Suddenly 96 mph became 92 mph, as Reyes' highly-touted fastball suppressed to the speed of his changeup. Then it stayed there, thrice over a mysterious five-pitch stretch that sent the Cardinals' training staff to the mound with worry over his health. Though Reyes regained his velocity by the end of the frame, that glimmer of fatigue was enough to truncate his highly-anticipated season debut and ultimately overshadow a 3-2 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday.

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"I felt fine," Reyes said afterwards. "A little fatigued. Anything besides that, I wasn't really worried about, and I'm not worried about it now."

Reyes said he was surprised when trainer Alan Olsen led a caravan of Cardinals officials to the mound with two outs in the fourth, after the three fastballs he threw that inning topped out at 92.7 mph. His velocity had begun dipping an inning prior, oscillating between 96.8 mph and 92.8 mph after hitting 97.7 mph on the gun earlier in the day. Now 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery, Reyes routinely flirted with triple digits his final two rehab starts, while showing an ability to maintain that velocity as his pitch count eclipsed 90.

Tweet from @JoeTrezz: .@Statcast™ provides a visual of what the Cardinals found so concerning today. (h/t, @_dadler)The red line is Alex Reyes' fastball. The green line is his changeup. He didn't stop throwing his changeup. The radar just lost its ability to differentiate the two. #STLCards pic.twitter.com/HK2I6kk5n6

The Cardinals decided to remove him Wednesday after 73 pitches as a precautionary move. Reyes remained in the dugout after he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning of a scoreless game. In all, the Cardinals No.1 prospect allowed three hits and walked two over four scoreless frames, striking out two in his first big league start since September 2016.

"We saw a drop in velocity and we had to go see what was going on. Next thing you know, he threw harder the next two pitches," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "But it was something that had us concerned."

Pitching coach Mike Maddux agreed with Matheny's assessment.

"Just mother hens being extra cautious," Maddux said.

Reyes' abrupt exit kept him from factoring much into the game's outcome. Milwaukee scratched a run across in the fifth against his replacement, John Gant, who walked four over two innings of relief. Stymied for much of the afternoon by Junior Guerra, the Cardinals jumped ahead when Tommy Pham's pinch-hit sac fly followed Harrison Bader's game-tying homer off Jeremy Jeffress in the seventh.

Video: STL@MIL: Bader belts game-tying solo homer in the 7th

It only took one pitch for Tyler Lyons to surrender that lead a half-inning later, when he allowed a 441-foot game-tying home run to Christian Yelich on his only pitch of the day. Orlando Arcia drove in the deciding run with a single off Sam Tuivailala, before the Cardinals mounted two rallies against Josh Hader in the eighth and ninth. But Hader used three strikeouts to escape the eighth, and Corey Knebel came on for the final out and struck out Jose Martinez to notch his fifth save and strand the tying run 90 feet away.

"We had a momentum shift and then we had to change gears," Matheny said. "When you don't win games like this, they come back to haunt you."

But it all came secondary to the health of Reyes, whose status will be monitored going forward. Reyes said he'd never experienced in-game fatigue of this nature before. He'll be re-evaluated upon the team's return to St. Louis on Thursday, though Matheny indicated no medical tests are scheduled at this time.

"Undergo testing? If anything doesn't feel good, he will [go for tests]," Matheny said. "He's good to go. He had a [pitch count] of about 90 in mind today. We fell short of that. We saw something that didn't look normal."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
In between four strikeouts, the Cardinals managed four baserunners off Hader, including two in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Marcell Ozuna (who was a late scratch due to a minor finger injury) walked to lead off the inning, then advanced to third on a Jedd Gyorko infield hit. That pushed runners to first and third with two outs for Martinez, prompting Brewers manager Craig Counsell to replace Hader with Knebel. Knebel came back from a 3-1 count to strike out Martinez with a high fastball to end the game.

Video: STL@MIL: Knebel fans Martinez to earn his 5th save

SOUND SMART
Lyons became the first Cardinals pitcher since Randy Choate in 2015 to surrender a home run on one pitch before being removed from a game. He's just the fourth pitcher in franchise history to do so, joining Lance Painter (2001), Dave Veres (1999) and Choate.

Video: STL@MIL: Yelich bashes 441-foot home run at 110.9 mph

HE SAID IT
"I understand my velo was down, but I thought I was getting outs. I was surprised [the training staff came out].They asked me how I felt and that was pretty much it." -- Reyes

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
A successful challenge helped Reyes face the minimum in his first inning back, after he allowed a one-out single to Yelich. Yelich was initially ruled safe following a pickoff attempt. But the call was reversed after a 49-second review, clearing the bases ahead of Reyes' inning-ending strikeout of Jesus Aguilar.

Video: STL@MIL: Reyes picks off Yelich after a review

UP NEXT
The Cardinals' stretch of 10 consecutive intradivison games continues Thursday when they return home to open a four-game set against the Pirates. Jack Flaherty (2-1, 2.15) and Trevor Williams (5-3, 3.43) line up in a rematch of Saturday, when Flaherty beat Williams to help St. Louis take two of three in Pittsburgh. Flaherty could be pitching to keep his rotation spot, with Carlos Martinez set to return from the disabled list in the near future.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Alex Reyes