It’s difficult to believe, but even after three losses to their division rivals in less than 72 hours, the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ weekend in St. Louis actually could’ve been worse.
Yes, the Pirates went from 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals for first place in the National League Central to that many games behind with three weeks to go. They allowed 26 runs over the weekend, their offense only scored runs when the games were out of hand and they have matched their season’s longest losing streak at four, but one more thing technically could’ve gone wrong.
Sunday’s starting pitcher Charlie Morton allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings, departing due to injury. For a pitcher just a year removed from elbow reconstruction surgery, it seemed like Murphy’s Law was in effect. The Pirates announced later in the game that Morton’s ailment was a sore left foot, providing the lone bright spot in a 9-2 defeat.
After consecutive below starts from Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Jeff Locke, Pittsburgh (81-61) was seeking another strong one from Morton, probably the team’s best pitcher of the second half. Instead, at least partially due to injury, the Pirates had to dig into their bullpen too early to expect a win.
On the offensive side, Sunday was a departure from the first two losses in St. Louis, in which the Pirates missed on numerous opportunities early in games to get on the board. Instead, the Bucs barely got a sniff against rookie Cardinals righthander Michael Wacha in the series finale.
The hard-throwing Wacha threw seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits while matching St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright’s performance from Saturday. The Pirates got to reliever Sam Freeman for two runs in the ninth, snapping a 17-inning scoreless streak on RBIs from Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez.
The Cardinals (83-60) got two hits each from Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay, David Freese and Pete Kozma; they plated multiple runs in the first, second and fifth to mount a 9-0 lead. Ironically, Wacha was the only Redbird with multiple runs batted in, as his single up the middle highlighted a four-run fifth that put the game away.
The Pirates have dropped to 20 games over .500 for the first time since late June. They’ll try to avoid their first five-game losing streak of the year Monday night in Texas, where they begin their final interleague series of the year. Rookie Gerrit Cole pitches for Pittsburgh, opposing AL Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish in the 8 p.m. Eastern time contest.