Photo is credited to Getty Images.
Coming off being swept by the Chicago Cubs, the Pirates came to Busch Stadium this weekend to take on the Cardinals, their other National League Central rival.
Game One: Pirates 4, Cardinals 2 — WP: Francisco Liriano (3-1) LP: Carlos Martinez (4-2) SV: Mark Melancon (8)
A dominant outing from their starting pitcher and a two-homer performance from their returning third baseman powered the Pirates to a victory over the Cardinals on Friday night.
The Pirates took advantage of an offset Carlos Martinez in the second inning. Starling Marte started the inning with a single, and catcher Francisco Cervelli followed with a walk. A double play later, Josh Harrison drove in Marte on an infield single, giving Francisco Liriano a lead to work with.
After loading the bases and recording one out in the fourth, Martinez was removed from the ballgame with what the Cardinals later labeled fatigue. Lefty Tyler Lyons entered the game in place of Martinez and struck out the first two Pirates he faced to escape the bases-loaded jam without any damage.
Jung Ho Kang, who suffered a fractured left leg in September, made his first appearance of the 2016 regular season with the Pirates in the first game of the series. Hitless in two at-bats to point on the night, Kang stepped in the box to face Lyons with a runner on first. Kang smashed a pitch to deep right-center field for a two-run homer, padding Pittsburgh’s lead to 3-0.
Liriano was rolling along, striking out nine Cardinals through his first six innings of work. St. Louis started something in the seventh by putting runners at first and second with one out after Randal Grichuk drew a walk and Aledmys Diaz singled. Liriano delivered a pitch that Cervelli could not corral, and Grichuk scored while Diaz took third. Pinch-hitter Ruben Tejada plated Diaz on a sacrifice fly, giving the Cardinals their second run of the day. Liriano struck out Matt Carpenter to the inning, as well as his respectable outing.
With Kevin Siegrist out of the ‘pen for St. Louis in the eight, Kang homered for the second time, this time to the upper deck in left field. The homer upped Pittsburgh’s lead to two runs, and closer Mark Melancon shut the door in the bottom of ninth to preserve a 4-2 win for the Bucs.
–As noted, Carlos Martinez left the game with fatigue. He will be reevaluated before his next start, which is in line to be May 12.
Game Two: Cardinals 6, Pirates 4 — WP: Trevor Rosenthal (1-1) LP: A.J. Schugel (0-1)
Both starting pitchers were a bit shaky in the early going, but the two straightened out as the game eventually faded to a battle of what bullpens.
Adam Wainwright’s outing began with consecutive hits from John Jaso, Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, and Starling Marte, loading the bases and plating one run with nobody out. Jung Ho Kang drove in another run on a sacrifice fly — his fourth RBI in five plate appearances on the season — to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Matt Carpenter doubled to greet Jeff Locke in the first inning, and Locke responded by issuing walks to Stephen Piscotty and Matt Holliday. Randal Grichuk laced a single to left field to score two and tie the score. Like the Pirates did in the top half of the frame, the Cardinals squeezed two runs out of their loaded bases.
Other than the solo homer Locke allowed to Piscotty in the third, Locke and Wainwright settled down tremendously after the first inning, which featured a total of nine baserunners. Locke and Wainwright each went six innings; Wainwright began the seventh, but he was lifted after a double and a sacrifice bunt. Seung Hwan Oh entered in relief and recorded an out before Jaso singled to tie the game at three.
The Cardinals took the lead back in the bottom of the eighth while facing Jared Hughes. Piscotty doubled and scored on a base hit of the bat of Grichuk. With a lead, St. Louis turned to closer Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth. Former Cardinal David Freese reached on a throwing error by Aledmys Diaz, and Jaso drew a walk next. Polanco reached on a forceout, and Marte followed with a double, scoring Freese and tying the game.
A.J. Schugel entered the game in the ninth for Pittsburgh. Diaz led off the inning with a single, and Carpenter came to bat an out later. Carpenter unloaded on a 1-2 pitch, hammering it to right-center field for a home run. The long ball was Carpenter’s fourth of the year and won the game for St. Louis, 6-4.
–The homer in the ninth was the first walk-off shot of Matt Carpenter’s career.
Game Three: Pirates 10, Cardinals 5 — WP: Gerrit Cole (3-3) LP: Michael Wacha (2-3) SV: Mark Melancon (9)
A total of eight runs scored in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings powered the Pirates to a 10-5 victory of the Cardinals in the rubber game of the three-game series.
Michael Wacha started for the Cardinals, and Gerrit Cole started for the Pirates. One of the few blemishes of Cole’s day came about in the third inning. Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty singled, but Piscotty was erased on a double play off the bat of Matt Holliday. Carpenter took third for Brandon Moss, who lined his fourth double of the season to right field, giving St. Louis an early lead.
After Jordy Mercer drew a one-out walk in the fifth, catcher Chris Stewart doubled, tying the game. Leadoff hitter John Jaso homered an out later, plating a pair of runs. The Pirates added to their lead in the sixth with an RBI single from David Freese, granting Cole a three-run lead. Cole allowed a two-out homer to Jeremy Hazelbaker in the bottom half of the sixth, the final run he’d allow in his outing.
Matt Bowman started the seventh inning for St. Louis and walked Matt Joyce. Jaso followed with a double, putting runners in scoring position for the meat of Pittsburgh’s batting order. Andrew McCutchen singled, scoring one, and Gregory Polanco homered off the left-field foul pole next, a three-run shot to really break the game open. On the unfavorable side of the 8-2 score, Bowman’s day ended in favor of Seth Maness, who recorded all three outs of the inning.
Kyle Lobstein entered the game in the seventh for the Pirates and loaded the bases with one out. Brandon Moss grounded into a force out, allowing the runner from third to score. Arquimedes Caminero came out of the bullpen to face Yadier Molina, who muscled a single to right. The base hit scored Moss and pulled the Cardinals within three.
The Pirates added two runs in the ninth against Jonathan Broxton on RBI singles from Josh Harrison and Stewart. St. Louis loaded the bases in the ninth against Ryan Vogelsong. Closer Mark Melancon entered the ballgame and ended the Cardinals’ rally, however, by inducing a double play off the bat of Molina.
–With two doubles on Sunday, Starling Marte leads the majors with thirteen two-baggers.
Pirates: The Pirates will travel to Cincinnati to play a three-game series at Great American Ballpark with the Reds.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will embark on their second West-coast roadtrip of the year, and the first of two stops will come in Anaheim for a three-game date with the Angels.