Hope for the NL Central dashed as Pittsburgh Pirates split doubleheader

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Sep 30, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli (29) and starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) celebrate after Cervelli scored a run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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The Pittsburgh Pirates kept their goal of winning the NL Central alive Wednesday afternoon, handing the St. Louis Cardinals an 8-2 loss to keep pressure on them as the season comes to a close. Gerrit Cole earned his 19th win of the season and pitched seven strong innings while the offense came alive after a quiet Monday night, keeping the Pirates three games back in the division heading into the night game.

Neil Walker put the Pirates up in the second inning when he tagged Michael Wacha for a solo home run, his 16th of the season. The Cardinals tied the game in the fourth on of a run-scoring single by Matt Holliday that brought in Matt Carpenter. But it was in the bottom of the fourth when the Pirates’ bats went to work, banging out five more runs against Wacha.

With Andrew McCutchen and Aramis Ramirez on base and one out, Mike Matheny opted to walk Pedro Alvarez to load the bases for Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli made him regret that decision immediately when he connected for a grand slam, his seventh home run of the season, to put the Pirates up 5-1. Pittsburgh added another run when Gregory Polanco knocked in Jordy Mercer. Gregory Polanco was tagged out between second and third but fortunately the run had already crossed the plate.

Carpenter add another run for the Cardinals in the sixth when he blasted his 28th home run of the season out of the ballpark, which eventually rolled into the mighty Allegheny. Pittsburgh took the run back in their half of the inning on of a run-scoring double by Cervelli.

Adam Wainwright came in for the eighth inning after missing many months due to a leg injury and the Pirates welcomed him to the game by raising his ERA with a run-scoring double by Josh Harrison, sealing the Pirates 8-2 win in the first game and keeping the division title within sight.

What Stood Out

After a quiet night offensively on Monday, Cervelli led the way in the victory in the first game. He continues to show value behind and at the plate and has been an integral part of the success this team has had this season. For a player that has had a reputation of being injury prone his whole career, he has been healthy this year for the Pirates and is showing what he can do in a full season. No word yet if Neal Huntington is scouting the other catchers on the New York Yankees, but Brian Cashman should probably not answer if he calls inquiring about a backstop.

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Cole gave the Pirates exactly what they needed in the first game, taking the ball and keeping a very talented club from ever mounting a huge threat. He will without a doubt get the nod if the Pirates find themselves in the Wild Card game and has showed that he deserves that honor with his performance all season long.

What’s Next

The Pirates will look to keep pressure on the Cardinals when the doubleheader resumes at 7:05 PM. Charlie Morton and Tyler Lyons will take the ball for their respective clubs in the second game. Morton’s last two outings were bad to put it mildly and he’ll look to rebound in this game that will ultimately help decide Pittsburgh’s playoff destiny. Lyons will be making a spot start for the Cardinals, so the Pirates should have a good opportunity to attack a pitcher who is not used to throwing deep into ball games.

Next: No division title for the Pirates as Morton implodes