Cardinals hold off Pirates in slugfest
PITTSBURGH -- It’s unknown whether Matt Carpenter was the only player who felt completely secure about St. Louis’ ability to hold on Friday night, but he had enough confidence for everyone else.
“Never a doubt. Never a doubt,” Carpenter, who drove in three runs, said after the Cardinals nearly blew an eight-run lead in their 11-10 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
“It was interesting, for sure, but I knew we’d find a way to finish it off.”
Carpenter, Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong hit home runs, three of St. Louis’ 13 hits, as the Cardinals built an 11-3 lead, only to watch the Pirates come back and have a shot at winning in the ninth.
DeJong was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs as St. Louis (63-59) won its second in a row and 10th in the past 12 to remain 1 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central.
Pittsburgh (58-64) lost its sixth straight and fell five games behind the Cardinals and 6 1/2 behind Chicago, but the Pirates still felt good about their game after scoring 10 runs, including three homers, and climbing out of the early hole.
“We were able to get some positive offensive traction in our direction,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was fun to watch. Come up a run short at the end of the night. That’s never the goal. The goal is to go out and leave everything on the field. They left everything on the field.”
For the second night in a row in the divisional series, runners and runs abounded.
St. Louis scored in each of the first four innings for an 8-2 lead.
The Cardinals tacked on two more in the sixth and another in the eighth -- on Jose Martinez’s two-out RBI single for the eventual winning run -- before Pittsburgh’s Max Moroff hit the sixth homer of the game, a two-run, 420-foot shot in the eighth that cleared the stands in right and bounced into the Allegheny River.
“It hit the river? Bounced in? Didn’t hit in the air?” Moroff deadpanned. “I hit that really well. Next time, I’ll try and hit the river in the air.”
Josh Bell and Elias Diaz each added an RBI double later in the eighth to make it 11-8.
The Pirates added two in the ninth on Bell’s bases-loaded walk and David Freese’s sacrifice fly before Seung Hwan Oh struck out Diaz with the bases loaded to end it. Oh picked up his 19th save.
”Any win we get is big,“ Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ”We’re in the corner right there and we have to have somebody come in and make some big pitches for us. Oh did a nice job of that.
“Sometimes you have to figure out a way to scratch and claw your way to the end.”
Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez (10-9) pitched seven innings and got stronger as he went. He allowed two early runs on homers but settled in to give up three runs on six hits, with four strikeouts and two walks.
“I started to get better toward the end, and deeper in the game I‘m really trusting in my fastball,” Carlos Martinez said through a translator. “It’s just really helping me get this deep in the game.”
The Pirates’ comeback came against five relievers.
Pittsburgh starter Trevor Williams (5-6) had gone at least six innings in four of previous five games but lasted just two batters into the fourth, giving up eight runs and seven hits -- three of them homers -- with three strikeouts and two walks.
”I thought the command was there; I just wasn’t getting the (call on) the low pitch,“ Williams said. ”I had all four pitches working in the (strike) zone. It’s just unfortunate the low ball was taken away from me early.
“I‘m a sinker-ball pitcher. I need that pitch called to get swings below the zone.”
Pham’s 16th homer -- a one-out shot to right after Carpenter struck out in the first inning -- gave him homers in consecutive at-bats and St. Louis a 1-0 lead. Pham led off the ninth Thursday with a homer.
The Pirates’ start mirrored that of the Cardinals. Starling Marte struck out and Josh Harrison followed with a homer to right for a 1-1 tie. It was Harrison’s 14th homer, setting a career high and, as with Pham, gave him blasts in consecutive games.
The Cardinals added some distance in the second on Greg Garcia’s RBI single and Carpenter’s 16th homer, a two-out, three-run shot to right-center field. That gave St. Louis a 5-1 lead and five runs with four hits.
“Pham’s homer didn’t sound great. The one that I knew was hit was Carpenter‘s,” Williams said. “It was a sinker I just left up.”
David Freese led off the bottom of the second with his ninth homer to pull Pittsburgh within 5-2.
DeJong took his turn, hitting the fifth homer of the game to lead off the third. His shot to center, his 19th homer, gave the Cardinals a 6-2 lead.
When St. Louis put runners at the corners with no outs in the fourth and Carlos Martinez up, the Pirates pulled Williams for Steven Brault. Martinez drove in a run with a sacrifice fielder’s choice, and Pham drove in another on a groundout to make it 8-2.
Marte’s two-out RBI triple in the fifth drew the Pirates to 8-3.
“That was a cool game,” Moroff said. “Unfortunately, we lost, but it is what it is.”
NOTES: St. Louis RHP Adam Wainwright was placed on the 10-day DL because of right elbow impingement. ... St. Louis RHP Mike Mayers was recalled from Triple-A Memphis. ... St. Louis 2B Kolten Wong was a late lineup scratch because of a hip problem. ... Pittsburgh LHP Wade LeBlanc was placed on the 10-day DL because of a left quadriceps strain. ... Pittsburgh LHP Steven Brault was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. ... For the second night in a row, a Pirates pitcher (Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams) bunted into a double play.