Pittsburgh Pirates Get Much Needed Win In St. Louis

ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 16: Dario Agrazal #67 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 16, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 16: Dario Agrazal #67 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 16, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates four-game post-all-star break losing streak has come to an end

Entering Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in dire need of a victory. After dropping the first four games out of the gate following the All-Star Break, the team found themselves at 44-49 overall and 5.5 games out in the National League Central. To their credit, the team picked up said victory.

Following a 3-1 victory that was highlighted by strong starting pitching, the Pirates are now 45-49 on the season. This includes being 4-4 against those evil, nasty, no good, cheating, dirty, rotten St. Louis Cardinals.

It did not take either starting pitcher to get into a groove on Tuesday night. Both Jack Flaherty and Dario Agrazal pitched a 1-2-3 1st inning, this would prove to be a sign of things to come from both pitchers.

Through his first 4 innings of work Flaherty did not allow a hit. This ended when Corey Dickerson doubled with one out in the top of the 5th inning. This was followed by a RBI single by Kevin Newman that gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately, this lead would be short lived for the Pirates.

Agrazal has done strong work for the Pirates in his four MLB starts. However, one issue has been an inability to strike opposing hitters out. This would burn Agrazal in the 5th inning.

With one out in the inning Harrison Bader hit what looked like a routine pop up to left field. The ball was able to drop in though, and went as a double. After Bader stole third base, Agrazal was facing Flaherty and in need of a strikeout. Instead, Flaherty hit a double of his own down the third base line that scored Bader to tie the game.

Watching the game live, it looked like Flaherty’s ball was foul. However, if Agrazal could have struck out the opposing pitcher it would have been a moot point. All season long opposing pitchers have raked against the Pirates, this continued to be a problem for the Bucs on Tuesday night.

After his 5th inning hiccup, Agrazal rebounded with a 1-2-3 6th inning.

The Pirates would threaten in the 7th inning, but fail to capitalize. Starling Marte singled to start the inning, took second base on a hustling play when Josh Bell flew out to center field, and then with two outs Dickerson was intentionally walked. On his 101st, and final, pitch of the night Flaherty struck out Newman to end the Pirate threat.

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Clint Hurdle gambled and sent Agrazal to the mound for the 7th inning.

Leading off the inning Dexter Fowler hit a ball to left field that a leaping Dickerson could not bring in. After the ball hit the ground, Marte initially dropped it before getting it in to the infield. This was ruled an error, and allowed Fowler to take third base following his lead off double.

After Agrazal walked Kolten Wong, he was lifted for Richard Rodriguez who inherited a runners on the corners with no one out mess. Rodriguez would work his tail off and get out of the jam.

The first batter he faced was Matt Wieters. He got Wieters to hit a weak ground ball to Bell at first base. For some reason, Fowler did not break from third base allowing Bell to throw out Wong at second base. Rodriguez then got Bader to foul out and pinch hitter Jose Martinez to ground out to second base to end the inning.

Since returning from the minor leagues on Memorial Day, Rodriguez has looked like his 2018 self. In 21 2/3 innings pitched since returning he has allowed just 4 runs, and all 4 of these runs came in one poor outing against the Brewers. He has also gotten back into a groove when it comes to stranding inherited runners.

Rodriguez’s work also closed the book on Agrazal. In 6+ innings of work Agrazal allowed 1 run on five hits, three walks, and he did not strike a batter out. Agrazal currently owns just a 7.6% strikeout rate which is not a recipe for continued success. But for now, Agrazal has been a huge shot in the arm for the Pirate rotation.

After the Pirates were retired in order in the top of the 8th inning, Francisco Liriano took the mound in the bottom half of the inning. Liriano continued his strong bounce back season by retiring the Cardinals in order, while also recording a strikeout.

For as long as he has been in the Major Leagues, Wong has been a bonafide Pirate killer. In the 9th inning, Wong, for seemingly the first time in his career, would screw up against the Pirates. This led to the Bucs taking the lead.

With one out in the inning Carlos Martinez hit Marte with a pitch. Following a single by Bell, the Pirates had runners on the corners with just one out. Colin Moran then hit what looked like an inning ending 4-6-3 double play. However, Wong failed to field the ball cleanly. This led to an infield hit for Moran and a 2-1 Pirate lead.

After Martinez walked Dickerson, Newman hit into what appeared to be an inning ending double play. But following a poor throw by Wong that Paul Goldschmidt did not pick at first base, Newman was safe and the Bucs led 3-1.

With the Pirates in the lead, it was Felipe Vazquez time in the 9th inning. Felipe did his thing by retiring the Cardinals in order to slam the door shut. This included picking up a pair of strikeouts.

Tuesday night’s victory may have been the most needed victory of the season for the Pirates. The victory also tied Hurdle with Chuck Tanner for the 4th most managerial victories in Pirate franchise history.

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The third and final game of the series is scheduled for 1:15 on Thursday afternoon. Chris Archer (5.42 ERA, 5.72 FIP) will start for the Pirates and look to build off his strong outing against the Cubs in his last starts. The Cardinals will counter with Daniel Ponce de Leon (1.99 ERA, 3.59 FIP) who will be making just his fifth start of the season.

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