The Cardinals and Pirates have completed a three-game series that was as “big” as a series this time of year can be. St. Louis took two of three to extend their division lead over Pittsburgh to a solid 6.0 games.
Game one featured one of three exciting pitching match ups scheduled for this series–Carlos Martinez vs. Jeff Locke. Fast forward to the bottom of the fifth inning. The Pirates are leading, 3-1, a lead that was increased in the fourth on a homer by Pedro Alvarez. Locke walked the first two batters in the Cardinal fifth, Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong. Next in line, Jason Heyward. He sharply singled to right field, allowing Wong to score. With one out, a groundout by Randal Grichuk, Yadier Molina hit a sacrifice fly to plate the tying run. Two outs, a runner on third, Stephen Piscotty batting. Stephen riffled a base hit to score Heyward and give the Cardinals a 4-3 advantage, and, with the way Carlos Martinez was pitching, that lead would do. Martinez pitched eight innings, 108 pitches, allowing three runs and striking out eight batters. Perhaps the difference in Locke’s and Martinez’s starts other than the obvious things, because the game’s outcome could’ve been extremely different, is the walk column in the pitching statlines. Jeff Locke walked three batters, two of which scored. Carlos walked zero batters, his first start without a base on balls since July thirtieth.
Fun starting pitching matchups were certainly not a one-game fad in this series as there was another in game two, perhaps the most fun of them all. Michael Wacha and Gerrit Cole, two of the game’s most skilled and exciting young pitchers, squared off. But this game was not one to be noted of smooth defensive happenings– Neil Walker’s defensive miscue in the third inning ultimately was the key that opened the door to two Cardinal runs. With the bases loaded and one out, Jason Heyward was batting. He grounded a ball to the Pirate second baseman and then he commenced to throwing the ball to the first baseman in a very poor fashion. Jhonny Peralta was out a second, a force out, and Heyward took first. Kolten Wong and Michael Wacha both scored. They were the first runs of the ballgame. Andrew McCutchen homered in the following inning to break the goose egg that was the Pittsburgh run column. Cutch would then tie the game in the fifth with a triple, but those two runs were all the Cardinals would allow. In the sixth, thanks to a triple by Yadier Molina and a single by Stephen Piscotty, the Cards were able to plant a two-run seed into their run column and watch the tie break and grow into a 4-2 lead. The game would finish that way. Trevor Rosenthal, pitching for the second consecutive game, earned his thirty-fifth save.
Yadier Molina’s sixth inning triple was his second of the 2015 season, whether you choose to believe that clear factoid or not. Worth a mention is that each triple he hit came in a clutch situation. His first three-bagger of the year came back on July twenty-second against the Chicago White Sox in the top of the eighth inning when the Cardinals trailed by two runs. His two-out bases loaded triple off of Sox’ closer David Robertson cleared the bases and gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead, the score in which they went on to win the game by. And then, as touched on above, his second triple of ’15 was in game two of this series and broke a 2-2 tie.
The third and final game of this three-game series between the two best teams in the National League Central Division was started by Lance Lynn and Francisco Liriano. It’s kind of funny how much things can change in a matter of minutes. Well, it’s not very humorous when mixed with baseball. In a game that started at 7:15, it only took until 7:35 for Lance’s outing to be through. In those twenty minutes, the Pirates cashed in on an error by Matt Carpenter and six hits. Pair that with a HBP, and that’s the recipe for seven runs and a new opposing pitcher. Lance’s 2/3 inning-long outing is the shortest of his career. The Cardinals, down 7-0 after the top of the first, definitely had a mountain to climb. They began to peck away, scoring two in the first. Next thing you know, St. Louis only trailed by two. Two runs was as close as the Cardinals would come within the lead, as Pittsburgh plated three in the ninth off of Seth Maness and went on to win the game with a 10-5 score. Pedro Alvarez homered for the Bucs, his seventeenth of the season.
The Pirates will head to Queens, New York to take on the New York Mets. The Cardinals will continue their stretch of games at home with a weekend series versus the Miami Marlins. Jaime Garcia and Tom Koehler are scheduled to start at Busch Stadium in Friday night’s series-opening game.
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