Life After Littlefield: Pirates drop 2 of 3 to the Cardinals, shrinking their division lead


Jarrod Blumer, Contributor

After getting swept in Colorado last weekend, the Pirates went into St. Louis looking to get back to their winning ways and create even more separation between them and the rest of the NL Central.  That wasn’t the case.

Tuesday night we saw Charlie Morton deal against the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright in the first game of the 3 game series.  Morton went 6 strong innings, scattering 7 hits and only giving up 2 runs in the process.  Not much more you can ask of from your number 5 starter against a formidable team like St. Louis. In my opinion, the offense gets blamed for this loss, as they put up 3 runs in the first 2 innings on an Andrew McCutchen 2-run homer and a Jordy Mercer solo-shot and none in the following 12.  I also blame Starling Marte for dropping what would have been the 2nd out in the 9th inning when Daniel Descalso hit a routine fly ball to left that hit off the heel of Marte’s glove.  He ended up scoring, tying the game at 3, and the Cardinals scored the winning run in the 14th when a guy with 2 hits this season singled in Jon Jay.

That loss was the Pirates’ 4th straight and when a team loses 4 in a row they turn to their stopper to right the ship. Francisco Liriano has been that guy for the Pirates this year, and he was that guy once again Wednesday’s 5-1 complete game victory in which he gave up just 4 hits and 1 run in his 9 innings of work.  Not only did Liriano give the bullpen a rest, but he also limited the stress he put on his own arm as he completed the game in just 94 pitches, which is a rarity in today’s game.  Now for the offense, the Pirates got a lead early in the second with solo homeruns from Pedro and Garrett Jones and never gave it up.  They tacked on 3 more in the 4th with an RBI single from Tony Sanchez and a 2-run double from Starling Marte, making the score 5-0.  If it wasn’t for a wild pitch in the 9th, Liriano could have added another shutout to his career total of 1.  But in August, a win is a win and I’ll take them anyway possible.

Yesterday A.J. Burnett faced Lance Lynn and gave off a very playoff game-like feel in my opinion.  Burnett and Lynn matched each other pitch for pitch through the first 4 innings but both ran into trouble in the 5th.  The Pirates got to Lynn for 4 runs off of an Andrew Lambo RBI double, a Clint Barmes 2-run homer, and a Neil Walker sac fly, thus giving A.J. Burnett something that has been few and far between for him this season; run support.  But for the second straight outing, A.J. got caught in quicksand as he gave up 2 runs on 3 hits to start the inning before getting an out.  After a failed sac bunt by Lynn, A.J. gave 3 more runs on 3 hits before being lifted from the game with a line of 4.1 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 5K.  Russell Martin’s solo homerun in the 8th off of St. Louis’ Trevor Rosenthal tied the game at 5 a piece.  And once again we saw the Pirates offense fail to put together any sort of a threat after the 5th inning and didn’t score at all in the 4 innings after Martin’s bomb.  However, the Cardinals got to reliever Jared Hughes in the 12th when Matt Carpenter walked, Jon Jay singled, and Matt Holliday went for the kill with a run scoring single to give the Cardinals a 6-5 win.

The loss shrunk the Pirates’ NL Central lead to just 2 games over the Cardinals and 2.5 games over the surging Reds, who swept the Cubs earlier this week and have won 5 in a row.  It seemed for a little while that the NL Central was a 2-team race, it’s not anymore.  The Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds are all alive and kicking in this pennant race that sees the Pirates coming home for 3 games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Rookie Gerrit Cole takes the ball at 7:05 tonight and looks to try and find some much needed consistency that the Pirates are looking for from him.