The Pittsburgh Pirates proved their resilience Friday as they captured a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. The critical four-game series is now even at one game a piece between two of the best in the Majors.
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With the victory, Pittsburgh is 51-35, and 4.5 games back of the first place Redbirds (56-31) in the National League Central Division race. The Pirates are inching closer to the .500 mark of St. Louis with a 3-5 record in eight games played between the two.
Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole proved once more why his All-Star selection was correct as he claimed his 13th win against 3 losses. He permitted just two earned runs of six hits over seven innings. The 24-year-old Cole struck out three and walked just two. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound righthander fired 71 of his 114 pitches for strikes in dealing with 28 enemy hitters. He is 2-2 in four career starts against the Cardinals.
After the 4-1 loss on Thursday, it was the Pirates turn to crank up some offense along the North Shore. Neil Walker, who went 3-for-4, led the charge with a 405-foot shot to deep right center off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn that scored Chris Stewart in the home half of the fourth.
It was Jung Ho Kang and Pedro Alvarez who delivered in the bottom of the third that allowed the Pirates to retake the lead. Kang tied it at 2-2 with his line drive single to left center that brought Gregory Polanco across the plate. Alvarez said I can do that and hit a sharp line drive to left center that drove in Kang, giving the Bucs a 3-2 lead on the scoreboard.
The Bucs got on the score sheet in the first when Jordy Mercer smacked a line drive to center for his 14th double of the season and brought home Walker. Both Mercer and Kang went 2-for-4 on the night.
The Cardinals offense for the evening came at the top of the third when Matt Carpenter drilled a 404-foot blast to deep center that scored Tommy Pham. St. Louis left two runners in scoring position with two out and a total of six men on base.
Lynn did not come back out to the mound for St. Louis at the end of four. The 28-year-old right-hander saw his record fall to 6-5. He surrendered five earned runs on nine hits. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound righty struck out five, and walked only one. Lynn will begin the second-half after the All-Star break owning a 2.90 ERA.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talked to Adam Berry and Tom Singer at MLB.com about his club’s performance against Lynn, “We didn’t chase. His command challenged him tonight, and once we felt he wasn’t on top of his game, we tried to [look for pitches] in a very small area.”
Tony Watson was the first out of the bullpen for the Pirates when he came on in the eighth. The 30-year-old left-hander did not permit a hit and struck out one in retiring the side. It was his 20th hold this season.
Mark Melancon claimed his 29th save in closing out the ninth. The 30-year-old right-hander kept the Cards in check as he gave up one hit, struck out one in facing four batters. He threw 17 of his 23 pitches for strikes.
Up Next: The Cardinals and Pirates take the field Saturday for the third match-up in their four-game set at PNC Park. The Redbirds will have 36-year-old John Lackey (7-5, 3.09 ERA/1.23 WHIP) take the mound. The right-hander has hurled 81 strikeouts over 110.2 innings pitched.
Pittsburgh will counter with 38-year-old A.J. Burnett (7-3, 1.99 ERA/1.21 WHIP). The All-Star right-hander has 94 strikeouts over 113.0 innings pitched. The contest is set to get underway at 7:15 p.m., and it will broadcast nationally on FOX Sports.
From The Clipboard: The game lasted 3:01, and there were 36,825 in the seats at PNC Park…The Bucs were 45-41 after 86 games last season…Cole is just the fifth Pirates pitcher to win 13 games prior to the All-Star break. The other four with double digit victories were Ken Brett – 12-6 in 1974, Dock Ellis – 14-3 in 1971, ElRoy Face – 12-0 in 1959, and Rip Sewell – 12-2 in 1943…Thursday night’s home run against the Cardinals by Andrew McCutchen was the 139th of his career, which ties him with Jason Bay for eighth place on the club’s all-time list.