Happ outstanding again, but Pittsburgh Pirates blanked 3-0
The Pittsburgh Pirates squandered a fantastic start by J.A. Happ on Monday, getting shut out 3-0 by the St. Louis Cardinals in the opening game of the series. With both teams having seven games remaining, the Pirates will almost certainly need to win the remaining games of the series if they have any hope of winning the NL Central this season.
The Pirates had multiple opportunities throughout the game to score but Lance Lynn was able to get out of trouble each time. In the first inning Lynn walked Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen moved him to third with a double. Mike Matheny opted to put Pedro Alvarez on to load the bases and Jordy Mercer followed with a fly ball to center field. Marte tried to score but Jason Heyward‘s throw was on the mark and got him at home. This would be the first time on Monday that the Pirates had the bases loaded and did not produce a run.
In the third inning Gregory Polanco and Josh Harrison singled to get on base and McCutchen worked a base on balls to load lead the bases once again. Marte struck out and Neil Walker grounded out to first, making this the second inning the Pirates had the bases full and could not bring a runner across home plate. In the fifth inning Polanco started the inning with a double but was thrown out at third with some questionable base running when Harrison hit the ball to shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
The sixth went the same way as most of the earlier innings went as well. Walker drew a walk from new pitcher Steve Cishek and after Cervelli struck out Alvarez worked another walk to put to runners on first and second. Mercer lined out to center but pinch hitter Michael Morse added a third walk of the inning to load the bases. Polanco’s fly out to right marked the end to the third inning where the Pirates had the bases loaded and couldn’t get a run scoring hit.
The seventh inning started of with Harrison hitting a flyball deep to left center field. There was some miscommunication between Stephen Piscotty and Peter Bourjos which resulted in one of the ugliest collisions this season. Piscotty appeared to pull up and at the last minute dove for the ball, while Bourjos had continued to track the ball to catch it. Bourjos made the catch but Piscotty’s head slammed into his leg Piscotty appeared to be knocked out after his head hit into the leg of Bourjos and was carted off the field after laying motionless for a long time.
Once things calmed down, McCutchen singled and stole second base. Walker hit a ball to Peralta but he could not handle it and was charged with an error while McCutchen made it to third. Cervelli added another walk to Pittsburgh’s total for the evening (eventually ending with 10 as a team), but Alvarez followed up with a line out to end the inning. For those counting at home, the seventh inning was the fourth time the Pirates left the bases loaded without plating a run.
The Cardinals put the game away in the ninth against the usually steady Mark Melcancon. With one out, Matt Carpenter reached with a single. He came around to score on Jon Jay‘s single that Gregory Polanco misplayed and let roll under his hand. McCutchen bobbled it as well and fired it into the infield, fortunately being grab by Sean Rodriguez to stop Jay from advancing further. Mark Reynolds came through with a two run home run, and the Pirates could not get any runs in the ninth.
McCutchen reached with a walk and Marte moved him to second with a single, putting early pressure on Trevor Rosenthal. Walker had a tremendous at bat against Rosenthal before striking out. Cervelli and Aramis Ramirez were also unsuccessful in the loss, putting more pressure on the team when they return to the field tomorrow.
What Stood Out
Overshadowed by the offense’s lack of production on Monday was another outstanding start by Happ, giving up just one hit and no runs while striking out four in six innings of work. Happ kept his team in the game the whole time, and had some runs been scored early, he most likely would have gone much deeper into the contest. He finished with just 56 pitches but threw 43 of them for strikes.
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This is the kind of loss that really stings, because the Pirates hung with the Cardinals up until the very end. If they would have been able to get a few hits at opportune times, they could have easily won this game. The Cardinals are banged up right now and lost another player on Monday (wishing him the best of course, you don’t want to see anyone get hurt like that, no matter what uniform they are wearing) and they made Rosenthal throw a lot of pitches, so they could easily turn the series around tomorrow.
The pivotal series against two of baseball’s best teams will continue on Tuesday at 7:05pm. Charlie Morton will look to rebound after two very bad starts in which he pitched a total of just eight and one third innings but gave up 12 runs (11 earned). He will face off against Michael Wacha, who took the win in his last start against the Brewers and in general has been sharp this season. He’ll bring an ERA of 3.15 into the game while Morton’s ERA sits at an ugly 4.54.