Alex Reyes pitched 4 2/3 innings in his first start Saturday night, allowing just two hits, before the Cardinals lost 3-2 to Oakland. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Rob Rains

Alex Reyes fell one out short of having a chance to win his first career start for the Cardinals Saturday night, but he could still take away some positives from the game.

The same could not be said for the Cardinals.

In another frustrating loss, the Cardinals let a 2-0 lead get away thanks in part to some poor execution on defense and the fact two relievers could not get out of jams without letting inherited runs score, resulting in a 3-2 loss to the Athletics.

All three of Oakland’s runs scored without a hit – on a bases-loaded walk, a fielder’s choice grounder and a sacrifice fly. It was only the second time since 2008 the Cardinals lost a game in which they gave up three runs on only four hits.

Reyes was pulled from the game by manager Mike Matheny with two outs in the fifth inning. He had allowed a leadoff single in the inning and a two-out walk on his 89th , and final, pitch of the game. The walk was his fourth of the night, which helped elevate his pitch count.

“It was time,” Matheny said. “He had pushed it as long as he could, you could tell with some of his fastball command. We needed to get him some help.”

The help didn’t come, however.

Reyes left with a 2-0 lead but saw his scoreless streak end when he was standing in the dugout after Zach Duke hit the first batter he faced and then issued a bases-loaded walk before getting the third out.

It was the first run off Reyes in 14 innings to start his career, the longest streak by a Cardinals pitcher since Pat Perry threw 16 1/3 scoreless innings at the end of the 1985 and start of the 1986 seasons. It was the third longest streak to start a career in franchise history.

Of his 89 pitches only 51 were strikes, and Reyes only recorded nine swings and misses. He hit 100 on the stadium radar gun on only one pitch, to Brett Eibner in the second inning. Later in that at-bat Eibner got the only other hit off Reyes, on an infield grounder.

Yadier Molina repeatedly called for Reyes’ curveball and changeup, helping him realize he doesn’t have to always rely on 100 mile per hour fastballs to get hitters out.

“He had an impressive run of being able to make some pitches with his secondary stuff to get out of trouble, something you don’t normally see from a kid’s first start,” Matheny said. “That was one of the best called games we’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know many catchers who would go in there with a pitcher who can throw 100 and make the 2-1 and 3-2 calls that he made, to build confidence in Alex that he can make those pitches when he’s behind. That’s something you don’t see very often.”

Reyes was not happy about the four walks, the first of which came on four pitches to the game’s first hitter.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t efficient today but hopefully next time I will be better,” Reyes said. “I wasn’t able to establish the ball down early in the game. I’m definitely going to work harder to try to get better.

“My body felt good, my arm felt good throughout the whole game but it’s just consistently executing pitchers. Hopefully’s that what I will do in my next start.”

Reyes did not question Matheny’s decision to pull him from the game.

“My body felt good but that’s a decision that they make and I fully trust our bullpen,” Reyes said. “That’s just the way things worked out.”

Making the start just two days before his 22nd birthday, Reyes just missed joining Luke Weaver in the record books. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a win by Reyes, following Weaver’s win in his first home start Friday night, would have made them the first Cardinals to win the first home starts of their careers on consecutive days since 1912.

Reyes found out a couple of days ago he would be starting in place of Mike Leake, who has the shingles, but the move was not announced until well after the end of Friday night’s game. Matheny said before the game on Saturday the team does not know how long Leake will be out and there was no indication Saturday night of the chances Reyes will get another start.

Randal Grichuk staked Reyes to a 1-0 lead with his 18th homer with two outs in the second. It extended the Cardinals’ streak to 16 consecutive games with at least one home run and was their 40th of the month.

A two-out error by Ryon Healy allowed the Cardinals’ second run to score in the third, but the lead vanished because of Duke in the fifth and when another bullpen decision blew up in Matheny’s face in the eighth.

He tried, and failed, to get a second inning out of Matt Bowman and when two runners reached with one out, he brought in Seung Hwan Oh to try for a five-out save, but the tying run scored on a poor defensive play by Brandon Moss at first, trying to throw a runner out at the plate instead of letting the run score and taking the out, which led to the go-ahead run scoring later in the inning on a sacrifice fly.

For as good as Oh has been this year, he has allowed 50 percent of his inherited runners to score, 9 of 18.

It was the fourth time in the last 10 days the Cardinals had a chance to move to a season-high 10 games over .500 and lost.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains