PITTSBURGH – It was a game of missed opportunities and costly mistakes for the Pirates, as they lost to St. Louis 3-0 and have fallen to four games back in the Central division with five games remaining.
“We didn’t meet the demands of the game tonight,” Clint Hurdle said afterwards.
The Pirates offense wore out the base paths throughout the night with the some assistance from the Cardinals’ pitching staff – the Cardinals issued ten free passes, including at least one walk in all but two of the innings. The Pirates loaded the bases four times in the first seven innings and had a base runner at third base with less than two outs twice. However, they were unable to capitalize, stranding an astonishing 16 base runners and batting 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
That’s only the fourth time a team drew 10 walks and didn’t score in a 9 inning game. Last to do it was the 1982 Expos.
— Ed Giles (@InClementeWthr) September 29, 2015
Behind another stellar outing by J.A. Happ, the Pirates held control of the game throughout the first six innings. Happ dominated the Cardinals, cruising through six innings and only allowing one base hit in a tidy 58 pitches. Unfortunately for Happ, his night ended prematurely. Hurdle opted to pinch hit for him in the bottom of the sixth when the Pirates had runners on first and second base with two outs. They couldn’t scratch a run across, and Happ was not able to factor in the decision
“It was for the greater good of the team there,” Happ explained. “Probably a tough spot to be in. That’s just the nature of being a starting pitcher. It’s the manager’s call and I totally understand it.”
The games remained scoreless until the ninth inning, when Mark Melancon allowed a single to Matt Carpenter, who then scored from first on a base hit to right-center field by Jon Jay. Gregory Polanco allowed the ball to skip past him when he approached to make a throw back into the infield, and Carpenter scored easily. Mark Reynolds followed that with a two-run homer, giving Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal all he would need to secure the victory.
Tough Night for Gregory Polanco
Gregory Polanco had a game to forget. After leading off the fifth inning with a double, Josh Harrison followed by tapping a groundball to the left side of the infield. Polanco aggressively tried to move to third base, and shortstop Jhonny Peralta flipped the ball over to a retreating Matt Carpenter at third, who tagged Polanco for the first out of the inning.
Then in the ninth inning, Polanco’s error on Jay’s routine base hit to right field led to the Cardinals’ game winning run. Polanco raced to the ball and looked like he was gearing up to make a throw to third base in attempt to get Carpenter, but the ball bounced over Polanco’s glove, allowing Carpenter to coast to the plate for the game’s deciding run. It’s a credit to Polanco, however, who made himself available afterwards and made no excuses for his mistakes.
“Just dropped it,” Polanco said. “It bounced maybe to the right and that’s it.”
The Pirates will need to win the remaining two games of this series, and hope that the Braves help them out when St. Louis goes to Atlanta to close out the season later this week. It’s a daunting task, but the Pirates have not conceded the division just yet.
“Season ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” Josh Harrison said with a wry smile after the game.
Charlie Morton will look to rebound after his recent rough outings tomorrow night against the Cardinals, while St. Louis will counter with their staff-ace Michael Wacha.