Pittsburgh Pirates Squander Late Lead In St. Louis, Fall Below .500


After a rough 8th inning from their typically reliable bullpen the Pittsburgh Pirates were left with a sour taste in their mouths on Monday night

7. 4. 8. 33. Final

After capturing a rain-shortened series sweep of the Miami Marlins over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates started a three-game series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis against the Cardinals on Monday night. While the Pirates are not going to make the postseason, they do have an opportunity in this series to harm the postseason chances of their arch rival Cardinals.

Early on things looked promising for the Pirates, but a late inning bullpen meltdown led to a Pirate loss on Monday night. Following their 8-7 loss against the Cardinals, the Pirates have fallen back below .500 on the season at 71-72. This loss also snapped a five-game winning streak.

In the top of the 2nd inning the Pirates jumped out to a quick lead when Colin Moran hit a solo home run. Moran’s 9th home run of the season gave the Bucs an early 1-0 lead.

The Pirate lead grew in the top of the 3rd inning when the team recorded four consecutive hits off of struggling St. Louis starting pitcher Adam Wainwright.

With one out and Williams on first base, Starling Marte hit his 19th home run of the season to grow the Pirate lead to 3-0. Josh Bell, Francisco Cervelli, and Corey Dickerson then strung hits together in succession. Dickerson’s hit scored Bell, making it 4-0 Pirates.

Returning from the disabled list, Wainwright struggled on Monday night. In 5 innings of work, he allowed four runs on seven hits, a pair of home runs, and three strikeouts. After all the problems Wainwright has given the Pirates over the years, it always feels good when the Bucs can beat up on him.

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Williams retired the first nine Cardinal batters he faced and appeared to be cruising once again. Entering this start Williams’ 0.72 ERA since the All-Star Break was the lowest post-ASB ERA in MLB history. However, for the first time in over two months, Williams ran into trouble in the bottom of the 4th inning.

Matt Carpenter doubled to start the inning and Jose Martinez singled to put runners on the corners with no one out. After striking out Matt Adams, Marcell Ozuna singled, Paul DeJong doubled, Kolten Wong singled, Harrison Bader hit a sacrifice fly, and the game was tied.

In his previous nine starts Williams had allowed a total of four runs. He allowed that many runs in the bottom of the 4th inning on Monday night.

After his first bad inning in quite some time, Williams would bounce back. He posted a zero, while also recording his sixth strikeout of the night, in the bottom of the 5th inning. This rebound inning set the stage for the Pirates to regain the lead.

With one out in the top of the 6th inning, Josh Harrison hit his 8th home run of the season. Harrison’s solo shot came off of new Cardinal pitcher Chasen Shreve and gave the Pirates a 5-4 lead.

ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 10: Trevor Williams #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on September 10, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 10: Trevor Williams #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on September 10, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Monday night was Harrison’s first start this month and, with the team committed to playing for the future, it may be his last for a week or two. It is possible that this was Harrison’s last home run as a member of the Pirates.

With two outs in the inning Shreve was lifted for Dominic Leone. Leone allowed a single to Jordy Mercer and walked pinch hitter Kevin Kramer to set the stage for Adam Frazier. On a 2-0 pitch, Frazier lined a base hit that scored Mercer extending the Pirate lead to 6-4.

Kramer’s pinch hit walk ended Williams’ night. In 5 innings pitched, Williams did allow four runs, but he did not walk a batter and he struck out six.

Given the task of protecting the new Pirate lead, Kyle Crick took over for Williams in the 6th inning. Crick would do his job by retiring the Cardinals in order, continuing what has been an excellent rookie campaign for the righty reliever.

The bottom of the 7th inning saw another rookie right-handed reliever that is having an excellent season for the Bucs take the mound – Richard Rodriguez. Rodriguez would continue to do what he has done all season and blow batters away. Like Crick, Rodriguez retired the Cards in order but he also recorded a pair of strikeouts.

Edgar Santana continued the rookie righty reliever train in the bottom of the 8th inning. Unfortunately, Santana would have a rare bad outing.

After issuing a rare walk to start the inning, Santana jammed Martinez but he fisted the ball into center field for a hit that put runners on the corners with no one out. Long time Pirate killer Matt Adams then launched a three-run blast off of Santana to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead.

Following the Adams blast, Santana was lifted for Dovydas Neverauskas. What has been a disastrous 2018 season continued for Neverauskas as he allowed another run, making the score 8-6 Cardinals heading to the 9th inning.

Carlos Martinez became the new Cardinal pitcher in the top of the 9th inning. With one out in the inning Frazier reached on an infield single and advanced to second base on an error by Carpenter at first base to bring the tying run to the plate. After Martinez struck out Marte, Bell hit a ball into the left-center field gap that nearly cleared the wall for a game tying home run. Instead, it went as a double that cut the Cardinal lead to 8-7.

Following Bell’s double, Cervelli hit a ball deep in the hole at shortstop. Somehow, DeJong made an incredible play to throw out Cervelli to end the game. The Pirates would challenge the play and it appeared Cervelli was safe, but the call on the field stood.

Monday night’s loss was a tough pill to swallow for the Pirates. The Bucs had a big early lead, and, despite letting that lead slip away, quickly got back on top and were six outs away from victory. However, 8th inning bullpen woes prevented the team from getting back over the .500 mark.

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The second game of this series is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday night. Joe Musgrove (3.75 ERA, 3.78 FIP) will take the mound for the Pirates, while Miles Mikolas (3.06 ERA, 3.40 FIP) will toe the rubber for the Red Birds. Despite strong overall numbers this season, Mikolas has struggled to the tune of a 4.60 ERA and a 4.25 FIP in his last five starts.