Pirates fall victim to walk-off win once more

Pirates fall victim to walk-off win once more

ST. LOUIS -- For the Cardinals it was an out-of-the-park experience. Again. On Tuesday night, Kolten Wong yanked a two-out homer in the ninth for a 5-4 walk-off over the Pirates.

Manager Clint Hurdle went for the out-of-body experience. His Bucs had fallen victim to the walk-off in consecutive games, and the baseball purist inside him fought to get out.

"Great crowds. Exciting games -- one swing of the bat at the end changing them," Hurdle said. "Not the first time this season we've had tough losses back-to-back, and probably won't be the last. It's what makes the season so interesting."

The Pirates' and Cardinals' share of the last two seasons has certainly been interesting. In 2013 they split 24 games -- including the Cards' five-game conquest in the National League Division Series. So far this season, they split the first 10 games and the first eight innings of No. 11 before Wong smoked a full-count pitch from reliever Ernesto Frieri into the right-field stands.

So it may not be Red Sox-Yankees, but it's even better, definitely on the field. This rivalry may not have the history, but it definitely has the present, and on Tuesday the two teams gifted another sellout crowd at Busch Stadium with a doozy, as the Cardinals hit their second walk-off homer in as many nights for their first such back-to-back wins since 2011.

The Pirates had won the last nine times they'd scored at least four runs, and overall were 37-8 with that production.

"[Wong] saw my fastball too many times," Frieri said. "I tried to keep the pitch down, but I missed with that last one. It was a good at-bat for him."

"Once I got to 3-2, I was definitely sitting dead-red fastball," Wong said. "I was either going to get that pitch or strike out, because I was swinging at something hard. If he would have thrown something else, I probably would have been in trouble."

Over the first two games of the series, a total of 85,610 fans watched the Cardinals end consecutive games with good at-bats, the honors on Monday night belonging to Matt Adams, whose two-run shot off Justin Wilson had beaten the Bucs, 2-0.

The Cardinals, who were phenomenal a year ago in hitting with men in scoring position, are rocking the other side of that coin and keeping foes from doing that. In the first two games of this set, the Bucs are 0-for-17 with men on second and/or third.

Pittsburgh's offense consisted of two-run homers off St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez in consecutive innings by Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen -- both with a teammate on first base, hence no RISP stats.

"We've come off five, six weeks of good offensive baseball," Hurdle said, "and we're just not getting the hit to pop something loose, to add on some runs."

Alvarez's homer in the fourth got the Pirates even, matching Wong's two-run double off Vance Worley in the second. McCutchen's homer in the fifth gave them a two-run lead that was gone four batters into the bottom of the inning.

Worley retired the leadoff man, then Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay singled, and both romped home on Matt Holliday's double up the left-center alley.

"For the most part, [the problem was] two pitches, for the doubles," Worley said. "Those pitches just ran back over the plate a little bit. I was OK with the elevation on Holliday's, but Wong's was more middle-middle. Otherwise I didn't see them hitting the ball that hard off me."

At five innings, the start was the shortest of Worley's five. And with nine hits and four runs allowed, it was his most permissive.

"His fastball was up in the zone more than in the previous four outings," Hurdle said. "The overall command in the strike zone probably wasn't as sharp as it had been. Still, two big swipes drove in the four runs."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.