PITTSBURGH — When it comes to the rivalry between the Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals over the last few years, it’s been close but still one-sided.

Despite some memorable victories along the way, the Pirates went 9-10 against the Cardinals in each of the last two seasons. In 2014, they went 7-11. The last time they had a winning record against St. Louis was in 2013. That was the year the Cardinals eliminated them from the playoffs.

More so than how the Pirates were beaten, the most frustrating part of the rivalry has often been how they were beaten, with the Cardinals’ famous attention to detail and solid fundamentals frequently providing the margin of victory.

This year, the Pirates were swept in a three-game series in St. Louis in April. Since then, they’ve taken two of three twice, finishing with a 4-3 walk-off win at PNC Park on Sunday.

The Pirates are behind the Cardinals in the race for the National League Central Division and have little margin for error as they approach the trade deadline at the end of the month. If they have any hopes to pass the Cardinals and get back into contention, series wins like their last one will be the way they have to do it.

Otherwise, general manager Neal Huntington will probably be taking a long look at the veterans on the roster to see what the potential returns could be as the deadline nears. Players like Francisco Cervelli, David Freese, Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen, Juan Nicasio and Tony Watson may have limited days in the Pirates’ clubhouse — especially if they aren’t able to narrow the seven-game gap to the first-place Brewers.

But the thing that stood out during the Pirates’ series win over the Cardinals was how much of the contributions came from those players that the Pirates plan on having around for a while.

Adam Frazier delivered the walk-off winner on Sunday. He went 2 for 4 and was 6 for 12 in the series, seemingly on the other side of his late first-half slump.

Max Moroff hit his first major-league home run against St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez. Trevor Williams gave up two runs in 5.2 innings. Friday, it was Josh Bell with the walk-off winner and Gerrit Cole on the mound.

“It was awesome,” Bell said Sunday. “Max hitting that homer was amazing for the dugout. We were all going crazy in there. Frazier doing his thing, you almost expect it from him. … It was awesome to win.”

The young players coming through in a big way has added to a contagious attitude than can help all of the players.

“Every time something happens like that, you just can’t help but be so excited for those guys,” said shortstop Jordy Mercer. “They’re living their dream. … You get two walk-off wins in a series, that’s pretty cool. To do it against a division opponent makes it that much better. We’re playing pretty well right now and we have each other’s backs.”

The Pirates are playing pretty well right now, which will play into the decision-making process that Huntington has to make as the deadline approaches. After the series with the Cardinals, they’ve now won seven of their last nine games and have taken wins in three consecutive series.

They don’t get any easier, though. As big of a series the weekend win over the Cardinals was, the next one might be even bigger as they host the first-place Milwaukee Brewers for four games.

“It was a big win for us,” Frazier said. “A huge series win coming off the break against the Cardinals and a big series coming up against the Brewers. We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of games ahead. We’ll take it one game at a time.”

TRUSTING THE PROCESS

Trevor Williams went 5.2 innings and gave up two runs, which isn’t a bad line for the young starter. The things that held him back from being more efficient were the 10 hits that he allowed. Pitching with base runners on all the time isn’t typically a recipe for success and the Cardinals had runners on in every single frame.

But it’s not as if Williams was getting hit hard. He kept the ball in the ballpark and gave up just two extra-base hits — one of which was a double by Matt Carpenter that hit the chalk down the right field line.

The Cardinals were able to get runners on base for the most part because a lot of balls found grass, holes in the infield, or were just out-and-out misplayed. Three of the hits he gave up never left in the infield. Carlos Martinez drove in a run with a broken-bat flare. Only five times did a ball off the bat of a Cardinals hitter have an exit velocity of greater than 90 mph and one of those was a ground ball that was tailor-made for a double play.

In short, Williams was out there doing everything he’s trying to do by inducing soft contact and not walking very many batters (he had two). It’s just that the results didn’t quite follow the process.

“When you keep the ball on the ground, good things happen,” Williams said. “It’s frustrating, but it’s a lot better than getting hit around the yard and constantly trying to back up bases (on extra-base hits). If you keep it on the ground, guys should get out. Some times, guys are going to single you to death.”

Hurdle thinks that the more Williams is able to put the ball on the ground and have success doing it, the more successful he’ll be going forward.

“He mixed his pitches well,” Hurdle said. “He got some swing and miss when he needed it. He got some strikeouts when he needed them. Just the entire outing, you see the growth and the development. You give him the opportunities to push the game further and he’s going to do it.”

MERCER PICKS HIMSELF UP

Mercer had an embarrassing error in the ninth inning, when he let a ground ball go right between his legs. He quickly made up for it by making an F6-3 double play and then driving in the tying run in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double as the Pirates rallied.

“You look to make plays,” Hurdle said. “He didn’t make the one he makes 99 times out of 100. You’re going to get another opportunity. He gets the next one.”

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23 COMMENTS

  1. LLOYD is tired tonight so this will be quick. At this point our beloved Buccos could make a Central division push if all goes right: aka – Marte comes in and produces; Glasnow and/or any of the top AAA starters come in to shore up S4, S5 and the bullpen; Cutch continues; Brew Crew, Cubbies and Cards don’t run away; GM ADDs.

    But LLOYD thinks this is a lot to ask. Therefore, with competing in 2018 in mind, the opinion here is that it’s time to sell high.

    Cole to the Stros, Yanks, Rockies or Dodgers.
    Cutch to the Stros, Dodgers, Nats or Snakes
    J-Hay to the Yanks or RSox
    Nicasio and/or Watson to the Snakes, Rockies, Yanks or RSox

    J-Hay all day should get a top-8 prospect plus a lottery ticket from one of those two teams or maybe another.

    The relievers should each net a top-10 prospect from one of those squads or really any of the playoff teams due to the importance of one-inning shut down guys in the post season.

    Cutch and Cole only go if the teams give up two+ of their top guys for either….if not keep our boys…..same for J-Hay All Day:

    Stros – Martes SP, Paulino SP, Tucker OF, Fisher OF
    Rox – Rodgers SS
    Yanks – Torres SS, Frazier OF
    Dodgers – Verdugo OF, Alvarez SP
    Nats – Robles OF

    Getting any of these dudes in the system would be huge. Plus add in the secondary prospects that would come and the next 5 years would look nice when added with Tallion, Glasnow, Rivero, Bell, Marte, Polanco and our own top prospects.

    LLOYD’s notes:
    1. Jaso and Freese should only be available for a good prospect and not a lottery ticket because the team still needs to fight to win this year and those veterans are needed if some of these others are traded
    2. Almost zero chance the Rox trade Rodgers so screw them
    3. Verdugo and Robles make LLOYD salivate thinking of them with Meadows, Marte and Polanco
    4. The Astros are idiots if they don’t go big and try to acquire a Cole or caliber
    5. The Mets traded Nolan Ryan after 3 MLB years at age 24 because he wasn’t good or consistent enough for their win-now need at the time…….think Glasnow
    6. Nationals and Cutch…….same as #4

    OK Gentle Men, LLOYD says Goon Night to all men and to all men, Good Night!!!

    LLOYD

    • I say why not package a star + relief rental or JHay Jaso Freese to get the right prospect. If a massive rebuild why not shop Cervelli and Nova. Fans will hate but it’s the right move. Most likely won’t get rid of everyone all at once but everyone hits the block.

      • Beav,
        LLOYD thinks there should not be a massive rebuild because there is a team here that can compete next season. Any trade should only be made if the return is what the GM wants or more.

        Nova is on such a great contract for the next two seasons that he’d require a haul.
        Cervelli……he wasn’t included because his contact, concussion issues and other injuries make it doubtful he’d get top return. So keep the guy.

        Lloyd does agree though that most should hit the block…..sans Tallion, Nova, Glasnow, Rivero, Polanco, Bell, Marte and maybe Mercer.

        Should be a fun few weeks gents!!!

        • The haul is prerequisite. I think it really depends on what you mean by compete I think they basically need $30m of inf replacement + bullpen I don’t think they have it in the budget. I would call them good team that has a lot going for them but is just off the pace of other teams. They might get back on track by ’19 by figuring their bullpen internally but the process will sacrifice a ton of wins – I think the infield fix is most of the money they have or they stay internal and hope the entire lineup plays outside of itself and Cutch keeps this pace. By ’19 Cole is in his last year who knows what Nova looks like in his final year.

  2. I think an under the radar trade deadline could be the perfect remedy for what ails this team. A legit backend of the bullpen and a long reliever and a veteran 3rd or 2nd baseman could all be had cheap enough and that would solve most of the Pirates areas of concern. I also believe the next 4 games will decide if the Bucs are buying or selling. With Nova, Kuhl, Cole, and Taillon going I like our chances for 3 out of 4. I could also see the Pirates moving Williams to middle relief eaay enough to solve that problem and then using either Glasnow or Brault as their number Five starter. Then only needing to trade for one backend bullpen arm and a 3B/2B. Most buy scenarios I see,don’t involve big splashes, but I do think those trades could make the Pirates much better. Marte returning already helps the bench improve by replacing Moroff with Frazier, even though I think Moroff is a better offensive player than what we have seen so far in the majors, I still think he needs more time at AAA.

        • Hadn’t thought of that but i like it better. I really think Mad Max is better than he has shown us so far. Goose has struggled offensively in MLB this year. Will be interesting to see.

          • Honestly don’t think either has gotten a great shot. Despite Gosselin putting up a decent avg in Indy the lowish obp tells the story with him. I’d rather see what Moroff can do assumption being we’re talking vs Gosselin

  3. Trevor Williams has been a first half bright spot. The guys a pro and has earned his way on the team.
    That being said, time to bring Glasnow back. Glasnow just has too much upside. Not sure if having him pitch the MIL series or in COL, but he should be back, very soon for the duration.

    • While Glasnow will be back…I don’t think he’s worthy of bumping anyone out of the rotation just yet.

      While Kuhl and Williams haven’t exactly been studs, they’ve been solid. Heck, outside of one disastrous start, Kuhl is carrying a sub-4 ERA for the season.

      Brault should be up first (perhaps 8/1?) …Glasnow probably not until 9/1.

      • Kuhl gets huge ups for having the stones to start throwing a curve out of nowhere and sprout 99 velocity he’s earned the right to see where he takes it and arguably he’s been a lot better last couple starts so he gets to attend the next couple tribal councils. If he ends up in the bullpen I picture him being premium

    • I say tear it all down to guys w 4 or more years of control and give brault a second give Kingham a shot not because he’s better than glasnow but he’s quickly running out of road. Glasnow can get back in the mix next year when the org figures out who of brault Kuhl kingham is going into the pen. Glasnow gets a second chance for sure he’s too good.

      • Glasnow is a GREAT AAA pitcher. BUT, until he can show that he can get guys out with something other than a curveball, he needs to stay where he’s at. One positive from AAA is that he has cut down his walks considerably.

        • He’s improved in tangible ways and should get looks in a rebuild situation he’s going to get maximum mileage on his 40 man options in the next few years. At minimum he figures out bullpen might take 2 more years.

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