Game 6 recap notes--Cards sweep Pirates on a 5-4 nailbiter in extra innings

Tonight was the final game of a 2-game series with the Pirates with both teams' #1 starters pitching their second game of he season. Jameson Taillon took the mound for the Pirates. He started their opener, but because of off-days and a rainout, the Pirates have only used 3 starters so far. Mikolas was hoping to improve on his 3-HR performance in our opener.

After Taillon shut down the Cards in the top of the 1st, Frazier led off the Pirates’ half with a double in the left-center field gap on a high fastball from Mikolas. After Marte struck out, Cervelli hit a lazy fly ball to Fowler in right, who dropped it standing still with his patented one-handed grab. The error put Cervelli on 1st and moved Frazier to 3rd. Bell walked to load the bases. Fortunately, Mikolas escaped the inning by getting Kang to ground into a 5-4-3 double play.

In the bottom of the 2nd, after Cabrera lined out, JB Shuck hit an infield single on a grounder to deep short and just barely beat out the throw to 1st. Gonzalez then lined one into the right-center field gap that Fowler was unable to stop, and it rolled all the way to the wall for a triple to score Shuck and give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Fowler was playing closer to the right field line, but it looked like he took a poor route to the ball. After the pitcher Taillon struck out, Frazier golfed a very low Mikolas curveball that was thrown almost into the dirt and lined it just past the diving Goldschmidt for a base hit to right to score Shuck and extend the Pirates’ lead to 2-0. Frazier stole second, but Mikolas got Marte to ground one off of his shins and flipped it to 1st on a dive for the out to prevent any more runs. The Pirates extended their lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the 3rd with 2 out when Kang skied a high hanging slider over the left field wall just over the glove of the jumping Martinez for a solo HR. It could have been more. Cabrera doubled down the right field line and Shuck walked on 4 pitches, but Gonzalez grounded to the pitcher to stop the scoring.

With 1 out in the 4th, Frazier sliced a ground rule double down the left field line that was touched by a fan, but again Mikolas escaped with 2 groundouts. In the bottom of the 5th, with 1 out, Kang grounded a ball off of Mikolas, the 2nd time that he had been hit in the leg with a batted ball. There was a brief injury delay for him to throw some warmup pitchers. After retiring the last batter in the inning, he was done for the day with 96 pitches. Drew Robinson pinch hit for Mikolas to start the top of the 6th and popped out. Leone pitched the 6th for us and retired the Pirates in order with 2 strikeouts, the last one against the pitcher Taillon after he was behind in the count 3-0.

Up until this point, the Cards had had only 2 baserunners. Molina lined a 1-out single to center in the 2nd, Fowler forced him and stole second, but was stranded there when Wong struck out. Mikolas nibbled an infield single to 3rd off of the end of the bat in the third, but that was it until the 7th inning. Taillon had retired 11 Cards in a row with 0 BB and 4 SO, with only 70 pitches thrown. But DeJong woke us up to lead off the 7th when he lined a 2-2 fat center-cut 94 mph fastball over the 379 foot sign in left-center field for a solo shot to cut the Pirates’ lead to 3-1. With Fowler making the last out in the 7th, Shildt decided to make a double switch for the bottom half with Mayers coming in to face the top of the Pirates’ order and Tyler O’Neill coming in to play RF. Other than a 2-out walk to Cervelli, where he got squeezed in the strikezone a bit, Mayers pitched the 7th with no issues, including getting a 3-2 strikeout of Bell to end the inning.

In the 8th, the Pirates turned things over to righty Keone Kela and decided Taillon was done after 85 pitches. Good thing they did, because in this inning the Cardiac Cards (too early to say that?) tied the game up. Wong walked on 4 pitches, and Bader made Kela pay for throwing him a 94 mph fastball right down the middle when he smoked it over the left-center field bullpen in the deep part of the park connected to the center field fence. Carpenter doubled off the wall with 1 out, but was stranded there by Goldschmidt and DeJong. Mayers then got the first out of the 8th for us. When the Pirates announced lefty Corey Dickerson as a pinch-hitter for the pitcher Kela, Shildt summoned Miller to face him and lefty Shuck, both of which Miller promptly retired, with Shuck striking out on 3 straight fastballs.

Righty Kyle Crick retired us in order in the 9th, with Munoz, pinch-hitting for Miller in the #6 spot in the order, striking out badly on a slider away to end the inning. Superhero John Gant was tasked with the bottom of the 9th. Gonzalez led off with a walk on a 3-2 count and stole 2nd base. Gant had him in the hole 1-2. The play at 2nd base was reviewed, but the call on the field was upheld. Yadi picked Gant’s 81 mph changeup out of the dirt and threw a strike to DeJong. The throw beat Gonzalez to the bag clearly, but Gonzalez snuck his left hand on the bag before DeJong could apply the tag. It was really a poor tag by DeJong who put his glove in the ground hoping Gonzalez would tag himself out, instead of trying to swipe him with his glove. In any case, Gant escaped without damage by striking out Pablo Reyes, batting in the 9th spot due to the double switch, getting Frazier to luckily line a shot right at Carpenter at 3rd and getting Marte to ground out to 3rd.

On to extra innings for the 2nd day in a row, and the Pirates brought out the righty Nick Burdi to pitch the top of the 10th, who let us back in the game last night in the 8th inning. Wong skied a 2-2 hanging slider to right field and missed a home run into the seats probably by a couple of feet. It bounced off of the blue Allegheny Health Network sign at the very very top of the wall, and Wong raced into 3rd with a leadoff triple. Bader walked to put runners at the corners. Next up was Tyler O’Neill, batting in the #9 spot due to the double switch, and he shortened his stroke and poked an outside slider, grounded through the right side for a base hit to score Wong, give the Cards a 4-3 lead and move Bader to 2nd. Hurdle went to his bullpen and brought in the lefty Francisco Liriano to pitch to Carpenter, who retired Carpenter on the first pitch on a flyout to center. But Liriano walked Goldschmidt on 4 pitches to load the bases, with just 1 out. DeJong swung at the 2-1 pitch, a slider low and inside in the dirt, but it got by Cervelli, went all the way to the backstop and Bader scored on the wild pitch to give the Cards a 5-3 lead. DeJong struck out looking and Martinez grounded out to strand the runners at 2nd and 3rd.

Shildt called on Reyes to try to pick up the save in the bottom of the 10th. Cervelli lined the first pitch for a broken bat base hit to left. Bell lined to left on the first pitch. Reyes got behind Kang 3-0, then clearly threw strike 3 on the 3-2 pitch low in the zone, but the home plate umpire called it a ball. How Kang took the pitch is beyond me. The walk moved Cervelli to 2nd. The lefty Moran pinch-hit for the pitcher Liriano, and he walked on 5 pitches to load the bases. Kevin Newman pinch ran for Moran. Shildt then brought in Dakota Hudson, whose start will be skipped in the rotation, and let him have a shot at closing the game out. He walked Shuck on 5 pitches, Cervelli scored to cut the Cards lead to 5-4, and the bases were still loaded with only 1 out. It looked like Shuck went around when he tried to check his swing on the 2-1 pitch, but the 3rd base umpire did not agree on the appeal. In the hole 0-2, Gonzalez popped foul to Goldschmidt who made a basket catch and alertly whirled around and threw home. That was a tricky and dangerous play, because the danger in catching it is the runner will tag on a Sac Fly. But Goldschmidt expertly handled it and the runner stayed put. Pablo Reyes then grounded out to short to end another nailbiter with a 1-run victory for the Cards.

Odds and Ends: The Cardinals only struck out 8 times today, mercifully avoiding double digit strikeouts...Jose Martinez drew the start in left field today and hit cleanup after Ozuna was a late scratch with tightness in his right side. He will have an MRI tomorrow, and when asked, he said he didn't know what caused his problem...The Cards have scored 16 runs in the 7th inning or later, which is 2nd in MLB, behind only the Mets...This was the second game in a row where the Cards' winning run has scored on either a wild pitch or a passed ball...With 12 HRs, the Cards are 3rd in the NL in that category, behind only the Dodgers and Diamondbacks...How long will the 7-man pen last at this rate? In 6 games, the Cards' bullpen has pitched 25.1 IP with a 2.49 ERA, a .143 OPP AVG and a 1.11 WHIP, with 22 Ks, but an ugly 16 BB.