Coming into this game, you expected Adam Wainwright to be his dominant self. He was. Wainwright threw seven innings, giving up one run on three hits, with no walks and nine strikeouts. The lone run came off Pedro Alvarez, who hit a solo homer in the fifth inning.
“We’ve seen him along those lines before,” Clint Hurdle said. “You know, the curveball plays so well. Every once in a while they get me over for strike, then a put-away down low, the back door to left-hander, different angles, different options with it. Spotted up the fastball command as well, and that’s where he’s been very effective. When he throws that curveball as effectively as he did tonight, it just makes the fastball play that much better.”
Wainwright did throw the curve well, leading to six of his nine strikeouts on the night.
“He pitched a good game,” Andrew McCutchen said. “I wouldn’t give you excuses, but it was a little difficult to see those first couple innings with the shadows and all. He was definitely working that curveball, taking advantage of it…A lot of swing-and-misses at curveballs out of the zone. If we could’ve not swung at those pitches, let those pitches go, it could have definitely been a different ballgame, because that was a utilizer for him. That was the difference maker for his outing. We just have to show up, do a better job of that, not chase anything out of the zone, stay within ourselves and just play good ball.”
There were also concerns prior to the game that A.J. Burnett could struggle at Busch Stadium, which has happened in his four previous starts at the venue over the last two years. Burnett did struggle, giving up seven runs in the third inning.
ANALYSIS: What Led to A.J. Burnett’s Seven-Run Inning?
The right-hander didn’t look effective the first two innings, but got out of the frames with zeros on the scoreboard. That was despite putting the first two runners on in the second inning. In that case, Burnett was aided by a great play by Neil Walker, and a double play started by Clint Barmes to end the inning and strand a runner at third base.
Then came the third inning. It started with a walk on a full count to pitcher Adam Wainwright. Jon Jay followed that up with a single. Then Carlos Beltran put the Cardinals on the board with a three run homer, making the score 3-0.
“All year long we’ve faced A.J. and he has pitched good games against us,” Carlos Beltran said after the game. “Today was a game where he wasn’t locating pitches. He was falling behind, and we were able to put ourselves in a hitter’s count. So every time as a hitter you put yourself in the hitter’s count, you’re going to get something to hit. So it all depends about trying to be able to put in a good swing, and that’s what we were able to do today. We put good swings on the ball and we were able to score early for this guy who was able to pitch a good game for us.”
The damage didn’t stop there. Burnett gave up a double to Matt Holliday, hit Matt Adams, then walked Yadier Molina to load the bases with no outs. A walk to Jon Jay made the score 4-0. A double by David Freese cleared the bases, and put St. Louis up 7-0. It was at that point where the Pirates pulled Burnett for Jeanmar Gomez.
ANALYSIS: Why Did Clint Hurdle Delay Pulling A.J. Burnett?
“I was able to execute a pitch here and there, but never to repeat my delivery,” Burnett said. “I was anxious, and just wasn’t able to stay back [on my back leg] one bit today. You come in here to get momentum, and you give them momentum in the third. It’s tough to push back after that. We’ve got another one tomorrow, that’s a good thing.”
Jeanmar Gomez threw four innings, but that’s when the defense fell apart. Clint Barmes threw in the dirt to first base on what would have been a double play in the fifth inning. That would have left the Pirates with two outs, a runner at third, and Adam Wainwright at the plate. Instead the error allowed another run to score. Then in the sixth inning Gomez had two outs and a runner at first base when he gave up a double to Yadier Molina. Andrew McCutchen tried to backhand the ball, but it bounced off his glove, allowing Matt Adams to score from first and putting the Cardinals up by the eventual winning 9-1 score.
“You’d rather be crisp every single day you go out there. We weren’t able to really have that, but that definitely wasn’t the reason why we lost tonight,” McCutchen said on the errors. “We lost because we didn’t pitch too well and we couldn’t get any guys on base. Couldn’t get anything going…. We’ll shake it off. We’ve done it all year.”
The lone run on the night for Pittsburgh came on a Pedro Alvarez home run off Adam Wainwright. The pitch was a mistake changeup that Alvarez crushed 437 feet into the right field seats.
The Pirates play the Cardinals tomorrow at 1:07 PM EST, and will look to bounce back and even this series in a crucial game. Gerrit Cole takes the mound for the Pirates, going up against Lance Lynn of the Cardinals. Check back later tonight and tomorrow morning for analysis on the game.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
We had about 30 Bucco fans spread out in the left field stands tonight by the Pirates bullpen. Cards fans out there were good sports. I hope we even it up with Cole pitching. I’ll be right behind the Cards dugout tomorrow. Go Bucs!