On Wednesday night the Cardinals won their third consecutive National League Central Division title, as well as their 100th game of the season. Who did they clinch the title against? The team that was chasing them, the Pittsburgh Pirates..
The first game was started by J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn. The Pirates couldn’t push any runners across home plate, despite loading the bases four different times. Happ and Lynn battled each other for five innings, as Lynn was pulled after five innings and 96 pitches. Happ pitched through the sixth frame. The game would remain scoreless until the Cardinal half of the ninth inning. Pirates’ closer Mark Melancon was in the game, though there was no save up for grabs. With one out Matt Carpenter singled, and then Jon Jay singled. Simple enough, right? Not so fast. A fielding error by right fielder Gregory Polanco allowed Carpenter to score and the Cardinals to take a 1-0 lead. Soon after, Mark Reynolds hit his thirteenth homer of the season. The home run gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. Trevor Rosenthal was able to work around two baserunners and convert his ninth inning duty to his 48th save.
A scary collision between two St. Louis outfielders took place in the bottom of the seventh inning of the series’s first game. After Pirate Josh Harrison hit a fly ball to open the bottom of the inning, Peter Bourjos and Stephen Piscotty closed in on the baseball in an effort to catch it. Bourjos caught it, taking at least a double away from Harrison, but in the process his knee knocked into Piscotty’s face. Piscotty fell to the ground and remained eerily still for multiple seconds until a number of trainers and manager Mike Matheny arrived to him. Stephen showed signs of consciousness and passed the tests that were given on-scene to determine whether or not a neck or spinal cord injury had taken place. Piscotty was carted off the field and later transported to Allegheny General Hospital, a hospital in the Pittsburgh area. While there Piscotty had a neurological exam and MRI, both of which turned out to be negative. Godly enough, all that the 24-year-old suffered in the collision was a mild concussion and a head contusion.
Game two was originally scheduled to be played on Tuesday, September 29th. But, due to inclement weather slated for the majority of the evening, the game was pushed back to Wednesday and would be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader. The first game of the doubleheader and second game of the series was started by Michael Wacha and Gerrit Cole. Neil Walker gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead in the second with his sixteenth homer of the year. The Pirates’ five-run fourth inning, one that featured a Francisco Cervelli grand slam, would carry the Bucs to an 8-2 victory. Matt Carpenter drove in one of the Cardinals’ runs when he hit his 26th homer of the year.
Prior to the start of the doubleheader, the Cardinals placed RHP Carlos Martinez on the 60-day DL and activated RHP Adam Wainwright off of it. Adam, who underwent surgery to repair his ruptured left Achilles, was told at the end of April that he wouldn’t pitch again until 2016. Boy, did he prove them wrong. In game one of the doubleheader, Wainwright, tentatively serving as a relief pitcher, pitched the eighth inning. He surrendered one run and struck out a batter.
Michael Wacha never really got things going his way in his start of the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. Wacha, who was charged with just his seventh loss of the season, pitched four innings and allowed six runs. Out of the 86 pitches he threw, only fifty of them were charted as strikes.
The third and final game of the series was started by Charlie Morton and Tyler Lyons. The Cardinals knocked Morton out of the game in the third inning. After Matt Carpenter doubled, Jon Jay was hit by a pitch, and Jhonny Peralta walked, Bobby LaFromboise was called in to pitch. Jason Heyward was the first batter Bobby faced. Heyward scorched his thirteenth homer of the year. A grand slam. The slam gave St. Louis a 6-0 lead that would just grow as the night grew older. They tacked on one in the seventh, two in the eighth, and two in the ninth. The two runs in the ninth inning were thanks to a two-run home run hit by Tony Cruz. The Pirates scored once in the eighth inning on a Jordy Mercer groundout. The Cardinals won the game, 11-1.
Lost amidst the champagne and Jason Heyward’s stellar 3-for-4 night is the start turned in by lefty Tyler Lyons. Lyons pitched seven scoreless innings, limiting the title-hungry Pirates to a mere four hits.
The Pirates will try to maintain their lead in the National League Wild Card standings. Whichever of the two Wild Cards teams finishes with the better record will host the Wild Card game. Their lead is currently 2 1/2 games over the Chicago Cubs. They will attempt to hold onto that lead this weekend at home against the Cincinnati Reds. The Cardinals will play three in Atlanta to finish their season. The STL-ATL series will start on Friday. Jaime Garcia will get the nod against Atlanta’s Julio Teheran.
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