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Cardinals start Royals series

Ryan Helsley pitches against the Royals on May 22 at Busch Stadium. (Post-Dispatch photo by Colter Peterson)

CINCINNATI — It took six innings for Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas to push his shutout streak to a career-best 15 innings.

And only three pitches for his start to come apart.

The first ball Mikolas allowed out of the infield was an RBI double that tied the game, 1-1, and two pitches later a two-run homer by Cincinnati rookie Josh VanMeter carried the host Reds to a 3-2 victory Saturday night at Great American Ball Park. A day after the Cardinals' biggest come-from-behind win in 17 years, there would be no comeback this time.

They fell to 1-7 this season in the victory blue uniforms.

The Cardinals have yet to win a National League game in their road alternate jerseys.

The Cardinals got the tying run as close as third base in the eighth inning but Tommy Edman stayed put as the top of the order failed to bring him in. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt flew out to left field with the chance to tie the game, and the No. 3 hitter finished zero-for-three with two strikeouts in his at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The first four batters in the Cardinals' order finished the game zero-for-eight with runners in scoring position.

The Cardinals' first run came on Matt Wieters' seventh home run of the season. That was the only run allowed by Reds starter Luis Castillo. In the eighth inning, Edman's third hit of the game and second double put a rally in motion that resulted in one run. Harrison Bader, off the bench for the second consecutive game, scored the run.

The first four batters of the seventh inning reached base against Mikolas, who allowed three runs on six hits through six innings. He struck out four.

The Cardinals have a chance to win their third consecutive series Sunday in the finale at Great American Ball Park.

***

Cardinals bring back Helsley to fortify bullpen (for the moment)

Their bullpen thinned by recent use and the number of innings relievers had to cover Friday night in a 12-11 victory at Great American Ball Park, the Cardinals added an arm to the roster before Saturday's game against Cincinnati.

Ryan Helsley returned to the majors from Class AAA Memphis, and to create a spot for him on the roster the Cardinals returned infielder Edmundo Sosa.

Helsley gives the Cardinals 14 pitches on the roster.

That is not a composition the team has wanted to keep for long in the past, but it could be necessary because of the lack of available options the team has going into the third game of a four-game set against the Reds. Manager Mike Shildt sought to avoid using John Brebbia and Giovanny Gallegos on Friday night, and that meant Michael Wacha had to carry multiple innings. It also left closer Carlos Martinez out in the ninth inning to throw almost 30 pitches as he struggled to secure the save.

It's possible neither of them would be available for Saturday's game, and John Gant has also been pressed into repeated use this week.

Helsley and Dominic Leone would be innings options Saturday.

Helsley has been this year's shuttle reliever -- commuting between Class AAA and the majors. The righthander last appeared in the majors June 12, and he went from there to the injured list before eventually rejoining the Redbirds' relief group. In 8 2/3 innings since his healthy return, Helsley has allowed eight earned runs, walked eight, and struck out 13. He has steadily improved throughout July, however, with 12 strikeouts in his past 7 2/3 innings.

Here's the Cardinals lineup, backing starter Miles Mikolas:

1. Tommy Edman, 3B

2. Jose Martinez, RF

3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

4. Tyler O'Neill, RF

5. Dexter Fowler, CF

6. Kolten Wong, 2B

7. Paul DeJong, SS

8. Matt Wieters, C

9. Miles Mikolas, P

This story will be updated from Saturday's game and any other news and notes from GABP.

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Derrick Goold is the lead Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and past president of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.