After two days off, the Cardinals began a road trip Friday with a three-game set in Pittsburgh. Jack Flaherty faced off against Roansy Contreras, and while both looked sharp early, the Cardinals managed to open up a 5-0 lead in the third against Contreras. Meanwhile, Flaherty took advantage of a wide strike zone, working the corners well while mixing in sharp breaking balls, tallying six strikeouts. He only got through five and a third innings, but his command (outside of two glancing HBPs) seems to be trending upward in his last few starts. The Cardinals would get plenty of opportunities to add to their lead, loading the bases in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, but failed to cash in. The Pirates would make them pay for their failure to capitalize, putting up a six-run seventh against the combination of Andre Pallante and Giovanny Gallegos. The 7-5 Pirates lead would stand as the Cards snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory.
Brendan Donovan opened play with a strikeout looking at a slider that dotted the outside corner. Paul Goldschmidt did the same, fooled by a fastball that tailed back over the outside corner of the plate. Nolan Gorman didn’t fare any better than the first two hitters, striking out swinging on an elevated fastball.
Tucupita Marcano led off the bottom of the inning with a quick groundout to Goldschmidt. Bryan Reynolds got rung up on a fastball that hit the outside corner for strike three. Andrew McCutchen grounded a first-pitch fastball just out of Paul DeJong’s reach for a single into left. Jack Suwinski then turned hard on an inside cutter but hit it straight at Goldschmidt, who snagged it for the third out.
Nolan Arenado began the second with a line-drive single to left. Willson Contreras followed, striking out looking at a 3-2 fastball at the knees. Alec Burleson got a hanging slider but got just under it, flying out to dead center. With DeJong batting, Arenado was picked off after Contreras stepped off the rubber and got him in a rundown, ending the Cards’ half of the frame.
Carlos Santana dropped a bloop into left for a leadoff single. Ji Hwan Bae chopped a curveball to Goldschmidt, who stepped on first and threw to second, but the tag at second was too late to get Santana. Ke’Bryan Hayes, with a runner on second and one away, chased a slider and cutter away before getting frozen by a fastball that clipped the outside corner for the second out. Josh Palacios hammered a first-pitch curveball but Gorman was positioned perfectly to catch the hard liner.
DeJong struck out waving at a slider that broke off the outside corner. Jordan Walker, freshly recalled from Memphis Friday, followed with a groundout to short. Tommy Edman slapped a good outside four-seamer down the left field line and into the corner for a double. Donovan capitalized on the RBI opportunity, dropping his bat to a low slider and easily putting it in the right field seats to put the Cardinals up 2-0.
Goldschmidt continued the two-out rally and tore another slider to the wall in right-center for a double. Gorman reached and took an outside fastball back up the middle, singling Goldschmidt home to stretch the St. Louis lead to 3-0. Arenado saw six pitches before taking yet another outside fastball to right-center, where it snuck over the wall for a burger-phone home run (and Arenado’s first opposite-field homer as a Cardinal). Contreras, with the Cardinals up 5-0, undercut a low slider and skied out to center to end the two-out onslaught.
Austin Hedges, looking to start a response to the Cards’ big inning, laced a soft single into right field despite a good inside fastball from Flaherty. Marcano skied a breaking ball into left, where Donovan caught it for the first out. Reynolds got drilled by a first-pitch cutter that got away inside, putting two on for Pittsburgh. McCutchen went down swinging over the top of a gorgeous slider that hit the corner low and away. The second pitch to Suwinski dove into the dirt and Contreras was unable to corral it, moving the runners to second and third. Suwinski couldn’t cash in, however, looking at another great fastball that painted the outside corner for strike three.
Burleson led off with a soft groundout to second. DeJong followed with a strikeout, chasing a slider in the dirt. Walker devastated a hanging slider at 111 mph off the bat, good for a single off Marcano’s glove and into center. Edman grounded out to second, retiring the Redbirds in the fourth.
Santana led off the bottom of the frame with a flyout to Edman on the warning track in center. Bae did the same, forcing Edman to make a catch at the left-center wall. Hayes was sitting fastball in a 3-1 count and turned on one off the inside corner, lacing it down the left field line for a two-out double. Palacios got hit by a cutter that ran inside and caught him in the knee, giving Hedges runners on first and second with two away. He fell behind 0-2 and eventually struck out swinging at an elevated 2-2 fastball to strand both Pirates on base.
Rob Zastryzny entered the game in relief for Pittsburgh and retired Donovan on a groundout. Goldschmidt pushed a good changeup the other way for a single into right. Gorman cued a curveball off the end of his bat, grounding it softly away from the shifted infield and down the third baseline for a hit. Arenado then popped out to first, but no one saw it on tv because Bally decided to cut to a graphic during the play. Contreras worked a seven-pitch walk, loading the bases for Burleson who left them that way with a popout for the third out.
Marcano pushed an 0-2 drag bunt foul for Flaherty’s sixth strikeout. Reynolds followed with a groundout to second. McCutchen hit a high flyout to left field, sitting the Pirates down in order.
Cody Bolton replaced Zastryzny on the mound in the sixth and issued a leadoff walk to DeJong. Walker went down looking at a 3-2 fastball that was well below knees. Edman just missed a home run, hitting a hard line drive to the warning track in center for the second out. Donovan and Goldschmidt extended the frame with two walks, loading the bases for Gorman, who was frozen by a 2-2 fastball in the middle of the zone to leave the bases packed again.
Suwinski opened the bottom of the sixth by drawing a seven-pitch walk and Santana followed with a single to right, putting two on for the Bucs with no outs. Bae softly chopped a cutter to DeJong who got the out at second, but Bae’s speed ruled out any play at first. Hayes, with runners now on the corners, got up to a good inside fastball and lined it into center, scoring Suwinski to close the Pirates’ deficit to 5-1.
Flaherty’s night ended there with a solid five and a third innings pitched on 101 pitches. Andre Pallante entered in relief and retired Palacios on a groundout to first. Hedges got a hold of a first pitch fastball and hit it hard to DeJong who got the out at first.
Arenado led off the seventh with a quick single to left. Contreras hit a hard flyout to center. Burleson followed, walking on six pitches. DeJong then singled, loading the bases with just one out. That brought up Walker, who grounded into a 3-2 fielder’s choice at home for the second out. Yohan Ramirez then came in to face Edman, who lined out to center, leaving the bases loaded for the third time in three innings.
Marcano kicked off the bottom of the seventh with a double into the left field corner. Reynolds followed with a swinging strikeout over a great 1-2 curveball down and away. This is where the game took a turn for the Cardinals. McCutchen drew a one-out walk, after which he and Marcano stole second and third. Giovanny Gallegos then entered the game (inheriting a 1-0 count to Suwinski) to escape the jam and gave a free pass to Suwinski to load the bases. Santana then hit a first-pitch fastball down the left field line that hopped into the stands, scoring two more runs on the ground-rule double to make it 5-3. Bae tipped an eighth-pitch fastball into Contreras’ mitt for the second out. Hayes came up looking to ambush the first pitch and got a dead duck of a slider high and inside. He turned on it, hitting it 421 ft to left to give the Pirates a 6-5 lead. The Pirates weren’t done, though, as Palacios also went deep to give the Bucs 7-5 insurance. With Gallegos still in the game, Hedges flew out to left, finally ending a disaster of a seventh inning for the Redbirds.
The Pirates made a series of defensive substitutions as Colin Holderman took the mound for Pittsburgh. Donovan led off with a popout to second. Goldschmidt followed with a soft single into right. The single wouldn’t go anywhere, though, as Gorman was robbed of a hit by a diving Bae in center and Arenado grounded out to third.
Marcano led off and faced the new pitcher Genesis Cabrera, grounding out to first for out number one. Reynolds followed with a flyout to center. McCutchen extended the inning with a single but was stranded after Suwinski was called out on strikes.
David Bednar came in for the save attempt and got off to a good start, blowing a fastball past Contreras for the first out. Burleson followed with a flyout at the wall, where Bae made another great catch to rob a hit. DeJong kept the Cards alive with a single, but Walker then grounded out to second, sealing a brutal 7-5 loss for St. Louis.
The Redbirds fall to 25-33 on the season, and are 4-6 in their last ten games. They’ll look to get back on track Saturday as Jordan Montgomery takes the mound across from Luis Ortiz at 3:05 PM CT.