The St. Louis Cardinals played their first road game since April 26 on this fine Friday evening, taking on a familiar foe and division rival - the Pittsburgh Pirates. The two squads faced off last weekend in a memorable Cardinal sweep in St. Louis, the home Redbirds taking each of the contests in style (all in extra innings). Tonight marked the beginning of the second series between the Bucs and Cardinals in the 2015 season.
Heading into tonight, the Cardinals were 7-4 on the road, while Pittsburgh was 7-6 at home. St. Louis, the first-place team in the NL Central, had a comfortable 8 game lead over the third-place Pirates prior to the start of this evening's game.
The Cardinals lost their last road contest, a 6-3 defeat at the hands of Milwaukee. Pittsburgh ended a two-game losing skid with a 7-2 win over Cincinnati last night.
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The pitching matchup
Michael Wacha (4-0, 1.93 ERA heading into Friday) vs. Francisco Liriano (1-1, 1.95)
Liriano's last time out against the Cardinals proved a successful one for him, as he allowed just three hits and one run to the Birds on the Bat on 98 pitches last Saturday.
Wacha's last outing on Sunday, also against the Pirates, went his way, as he allowed five hits and no runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Neither pitcher got a decision in their respective turns last weekend, but the Cardinals won each contest.
The starting lineups:
5/8 @Cardinals lineup vs PIT Bourjos CF Wong 2B Holliday LF Peralta SS Reynolds 1B Heyward RF Molina C Kozma 3B Wacha P— MLBLineups (@mlblineups) May 8, 2015
#Pirates Lineup: Polanco RF, Walker 2B, McCutchen CF, Marte LF, Alvarez 1B, Harrison 3B, Cervelli C, Mercer SS, Liriano P— Pirates Organization (@PiratesOrg) May 8, 2015
The reason Pete Kozma started at 3rd was due to a piece of news that most Cardinal fans were not expecting prior to the start of the ballgame:
Matt Carpenter was left behind to rest after doctors diagnosed him with extreme fatigue #cardinals— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) May 8, 2015
Carpenter, as it turns out, will sit out the series. He was held out of yesterday's game and previously battled dizziness in last Sunday's extra-inning win over Pittsburgh, leaving that game in the 8th inning. While the events may be unrelated, it would be hard-pressed to believe otherwise.
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For the St. Louis Cardinals, it was the night of the longball.
The Redbirds hit three home runs en route to an 8-5 victory over Pittsburgh. With the win, the Cardinals extended their Major League-best record to 22-7; St. Louis has now won 10 of their last 11 ballgames.
A solo shot by Jhonny Peralta in the 2nd inning tied the game at 1, while a Matt Holliday three-run blast the next inning propelled the Cardinals to a 4-1 lead.
Pittsburgh attempted to keep the game close, narrowing the gap to 4-3 in the 6th, but the Redbirds had other plans. A Kolten Wong three-run dinger highlighted a 4-run inning for the visiting squad, extending the Cardinal lead to 8-3.
The Pirates were able to close the gap to 8-5 in the 8th, forcing manager Mike Matheny to bring in Trevor Rosenthal in the bottom of the 9th; the Cardinal closer forced a double play by Andrew McCutchen to clinch the victory for the visitors.
The contest's starters - St. Louis' Michael Wacha and Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano - did not have the same results as their last respective outings, but the two workhorses did the job for their clubs. Wacha threw 6 innings and allowed six hits and three runs - two of which were earned - over his outing, while Liriano threw 6 1/3 and allowed six hits and six runs in his turn.
If there was anything to be disappointed with for Cardinal fans, it would be Wacha striking out just one Pirate batter. Liriano did some damage on his side, striking out 10 Redbirds.
The Pittsburgh starter's night ended after a Jon Jay pinch-hit single in the top of the 7th gave St. Louis a 5-3 lead; Wacha threw 104 pitches in his start.
Thankfully, #Mathenaging was kept to a minimum, the only likely grumble-worthy moment occurring in the bottom of the 7th:
Matt Belisle in to pitch for the Cardinals (batting 3rd). Jon Jay remains in the game to play LF. Holliday out.— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) May 9, 2015
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Bottom 1: Starling Marte drives home Gregory Polanco on a shot to Kozma, who lets the ball through his legs -- PIT 1, STL 0
Top 2: A Jhonny Peralta solo homer ties the ballgame at 1. Jhonny hit a 92 mph two-seamer that traveled 448 feet; it was his 4th homer of the season. #ChicksDigTheLhongball
Top 3: Matt Holliday crushes a three-run homer, his second of 2015. (The Cardinals opened the inning with Wacha reaching base on a Josh Harrison error, and Peter Bourjos hitting a double that put Wacha on 3rd base.) -- STL 4, PIT 1
Bottom 3: Marte continues to bring teammates home, this time Neil Walker with a two-out single -- STL 4, PIT 2
Bottom 6: Pedro Alvarez narrows the Cardinal lead to one, scoring Andrew McCutchen from 3rd with one away on a fielder's choice -- STL 4, PIT 3
Bottom 7: Walker singles in Jung-ho Kang -- STL 8, PIT 4
Bottom 8: Corey Hart grounds into double play, Josh Harrison scores -- STL 8, PIT 5
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What's on deck: The Cardinals and Pirates play the second game of the three-game series tomorrow night, 7:05 Eastern / 6:05 Central. Carlos Martinez is set to take the hill for St. Louis, while Vance Worley - who faced Wacha last Sunday - will be on the mound for Pittsburgh.