By Adam Berry and Jenifer Langosch
MLB.com |@LangoschMLB |
PITTSBURGH -- If there was any thought of the Pirates catching up to the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card standings, St. Louis quickly and defiantly crushed it Monday, running away with a 12-6 win at PNC Park.
The Cardinals pulled within a half-game of the reeling Giants for the NL's top Wild Card spot, remained a game ahead of the Mets and pushed the Pirates below .500 for the first time since July 3.
"It's a big win against a very tough team in a tough place to win here in Pittsburgh," said Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who won at PNC Park for the first time since May 2010. "They're very tough at home. We'll take it and move onto the next game."
The Bucs, meanwhile, lost their season-high seventh straight game and dropped 4 1/2 games behind the Cards in the standings. This is Pittsburgh's longest losing streak since a seven-game skid from Aug. 13-19, 2014. Given their late-season slide, the Pirates' place in the postseason picture has become a secondary concern.
"We're just trying to figure ourselves out, get out of this and get back to playing the baseball we know how to play. That's it," Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "We've just got to keep going. That's all we can do, keep going."
Jedd Gyorko and Matt Adams each went deep for the Cardinals, powering their 14-hit attack against the Pirates' pitching staff. The Cards put up three runs in the second, another in the third and four in the fourth, giving Wainwright all the support he needed. Wainwright allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings and helped his own cause at the plate, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
The Cardinals' defense chipped in with several stellar plays as well, none more impressive than Kolten Wong's catch in left-center to help Wainwright to a 1-2-3 third inning.
"The way Kolten goes back and then realizing that he had outfielders kind of crashing in on him at the same time, that's a plus defensive play," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "[Also] turning double plays early on when we needed them because that started by having the makings of a game where ... you see who is left standing at the end of a slugfest. All the way around, I thought the guys did a great job."
With the victory, Wainwright, who has now won 10 games in a season for the eighth time in his career, snapped a stretch of eight winless starts.
"I'll take the win," Wainwright said. "Dang, I hadn't won since Vietnam, almost."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Waino's World: While there was much left to be desired as far as his pitching performance, Wainwright provided his own support at the plate. He delivered an RBI double to plate the Cardinals' first run and later padded the lead with a two-run single. Before that single, all nine of Wainwright's hits this season had been for extra bases. Monday marked the fourth three-RBI game of Wainwright's career. His 14 RBIs are the most by a Cardinals pitcher since Rick Wise also had 14 in 1973. Dizzy Dean holds the club record for RBIs by a pitcher in a single season, with 21 in 1935.
"We need every win that we can get down the stretch here," Wainwright said, "and any part that I can play in that is a treat for me."
Not Kuhl: Pirates rookie Chad Kuhl appeared to be out of sync from the start on Monday afternoon, needing 28 pitches to get through a scoreless first inning and struggling through the second. He walked Jeremy Hazelbaker, gave up an RBI double to Wainwright and hit Matt Carpenter, who came around to score on Stephen Piscotty's two-run double to center. Head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk came out to the mound to check on Kuhl during the 30-pitch second inning. Kuhl remained in the game but did not return in the third. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle mentioned that Kuhl was "battling through some fatigue," but Kuhl chalked up his rough day to poor execution.
"Just really couldn't get comfortable in the first inning. A lot of misfires and just couldn't get it right," Kuhl said. "Just one of those games. I know I've had bullpens like that. Just part of being human. You're not a robot. I was just missing a lot."
Gone streaking: The Cardinals extended their home run streak to 24 games with Gyorko's fourth-inning blast. It was one of two homers the Cards would hit on the day, as Pennsylvania native Adams added a two-run shot one inning later. Gyorko's homer was his fourth in seven games on this road trip and his 19th since the All-Star break. The barrage of blasts has Gyorko leading the Cardinals with 26 homers on the season.
20 for 22:Andrew McCutchen provided one of the Pirates' few highlights of the day, lining his 20th home run of the season -- a two-run shot off Wainwright -- into the shrubbery beyond the center-field fence in the fifth inning. After four disappointing months, McCutchen has once again emerged as Pittsburgh's best hitter since early August. McCutchen has hit at least 20 homers every year since 2011.
"Twenty is a real number. Homers are homers," Hurdle said. "Sometimes they've played bigger than others. I love the fact that he drilled this one to center field."
"It's only my second day in the big leagues, and getting this opportunity to go out and contribute, it's a great feeling. Getting that first hit, it was a very special moment for me. -- Cardinals catcher Carson Kelly, who doubled in his first Major League at-bat More >
"Guys show up, and they're going to play. Sometimes you just don't play as well as you need to play to win a game. We're always going to take the field and represent the jersey."-- Hurdle
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pirates cleanup man Gregory Polanco went 0-for-3 before being pulled from the game, extending his hitless streak to 16 straight at-bats. He does not have a hit in September.
Though he was removed from the game in the fifth inning after being hit by a pitch on his left wrist, Piscotty does not expect to miss any additional time from the injury. X-rays came back negative, and aside from a little soreness, he insisted after the game that he was fine.
"I've been hit in the wrist a few times this year," Piscotty said. "This one wasn't any worse really. It did kind of catch me by surprise. It was tough seeing. I think that's a pitch I normally get out of the way of. I just picked it up late."
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli left the game after four innings due to left thumb discomfort. Cervelli appeared to be uncomfortable after striking out in the fourth inning and was removed early for the second time since he had surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone in his left hand. Eric Fryer replaced Cervelli behind the plate. More >
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Cardinals used a successful challenge to produce a three-run second inning off Kuhl. With one on and one out, Carpenter claimed that a 2-2 pitch hit him in the foot. The Cardinals asked the play to be reviewed, and after a one-minute, 29-second review, Carpenter was awarded first base. He later came around to score on Piscotty's two-out, two-RBI double.
The Pirates lost their challenge in the fourth inning, asking for a review on a play at first base. Piscotty hit a grounder to third baseman David Freese, whose throw sailed wide. Josh Bell came off the bag to catch the ball and reached back to tag Piscotty, who was ruled safe. Hurdle challenged the call, which was upheld.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: Right-hander Luke Weaver will make his fifth career start -- and first against the Pirates -- when he takes the mound at 6:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday at PNC Park. Weaver has made back-to-back quality starts and has yet to allow more than two runs in a big league start.
Pirates: Veteran right-hander Ryan Vogelsong will try to get the Pirates back on track at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at PNC Park. Vogelsong is 2-3 with a 3.44 ERA in six starts since coming off the disabled list, but he's 3-7 with a 5.75 ERA all-time against the Cardinals. The Bucs will try to stop their losing streak at seven games; an eight-game skid would be their longest since dropping 10 straight from July 29-Aug. 7, 2011.