Akin to their 13-0 victory against the Pirates on Aug. 1 following four straight wins by the Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals exacted revenge after the Pirates won the first two games of the weekend’s series. Pittsburgh outscored St. Louis 12-1 the past two games and, one month after their 13-0 victory, the Cardinals scored plenty of runs to avoid a sweep.
Starting pitcher Kris Johnson, called up to the big leagues today, had his first start as a major-leaguer spoiled after two-plus innings.
“These are the situations you want to be put in, I just didn’t take advantage,” Johnson said. “It’s just one of those days. It wasn’t a lack of effort, it was a lack of execution.”
St. Louis took a 3-0 lead before the Pirates had a chance to pick up a bat. Matt Carpenter led off with a single, Shane Robinson walked, and Craig singled to center to score Carpenter. A single from Molina scored Robinson, and Craig touched home on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jon Jay.
Johnson rebounded from his three-run first to toss an 11-pitch second inning, with the only blip coming on a single allowed to Shane Robinson with two outs.
“I just tried to go out and be more aggressive,” Johnson said. “I tried to get ahead in the second inning, and get back to where I was, and that’s usually where I get a lot of ground balls.”
But, Johnson was pulled from the game in the third as he allowed three consecutive hits to begin the frame. Craig and Molina led off with singles, and David Freese doubled to the deepest part of the yard to drive both runners home.
“He didn’t come anywhere near having the command today that he did against the Diamondbacks,” Hurdle said. “That was the big difference.”
With a 5-0 deficit. a man on second, and no outs in the third, manager Clint Hurdle gave his rookie left-hander the hook and brought Jeanmar Gomez out of the bullpen.
Johnson (0-2) allowed five runs on seven hits, walked two, struck out one, and threw two wild pitches as he lasted only 54 pitches into his first start as a big-leaguer.
“It’s almost like he was trying to push it to spots rather than letting it go. Buck went out there a couple times to try to get him going, then Ray did,” Hurdle said. “It just didn’t work for him today.”
Gomez pitched three hitless innings, and allowed just one Cardinal to reach base when he hit Craig with a pitch in the fifth. The runner proved inconsequential, though, as Molina hit into a double play in the ensuing at-bat.
After Hurdle pinch-hit Travis Snider for Gomez in the bottom of the fifth, Justin Wilson came on to pitch the sixth in which the Cardinals added two more runs to take a 7-0 lead. Wilson got the first two outs of the inning, but allowed back-to-back basehits to the pitcher Joe Kelly and Robinson, then walked Robinson to load the bases.
Matt Holliday then singled to tack another two runs on the board for St. Louis.
The Pirates finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, as Andrew McCutchen was hit with one out. He advanced to second on a groundout by Pedro Alvarez, and scored on a basehit by Marlon Byrd.
Speaking of Kelly, the Cardinals’ starter once again dominated the Pirates after he tossed six scoreless innings at PNC Park a month ago. This time, Kelly (7-3) allowed only one run on four hits, walked two, and struck out four.
“I mean he was painting those edges, going right after it,” catcher John Buck said. “He was pitching ahead all day, and his slider seemed to have a little more depth on it than I remember from when I faced him in New York.”
“He just commanded both sides of the plate with the fastball, which made it tough.”
Pittsburgh didn’t score again until the final frame but at that point, it was too late. Byrd led off with a double, and scored on RBI single by Buck. Byrd finished 2-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored, and is now hitting .313 (5-for-16) since he arrived in Pittsburgh with a home run, four RBI, three runs scored, and a pair of doubles.
“I’ve just been trying to be consistent,” Byrd said. “Try to stick with the same approach in staying up the middle, if you catch an off-speed pitch take it down the line.”
To end the game, though, the next batter Jordy Mercer grounded into a game-ending double play as the Cardinals tied the Pirates for the lead of the NL Central once again. Despite a bad loss today, Byrd has still gotten a pretty good first impression of Pittsburgh from his first five games in the Steel City.
“Amazing,” Byrd said.
And, a month to the date the Pirates lost 13-0 to the Cardinals, Hurdle will keep his team pushing forward as his 79-57 squad heads to Milwaukee to begin a 10-game road trip.
“Why would we change now?” Hurdle said. “You move on. That’s what you look forward to, you move on.”