After a dreadful series in Milwaukee, confidence couldn’t be very high that the Pittsburgh Pirates would play well in this weekend’s series against the St. Louis Cardinals. And this is exactly why we love the game of baseball. J.A. Happ pitched seven scoreless innings and Starling Marte drove in three runs as the Pirates beat the Cards in the first game of this crucial three game divisional series at Busch Stadium, 9-3.
Happ was dominant tonight for Pittsburgh, giving up just three hits and zero walks while striking out eight batters in his seven innings of work, lowering his ERA to just 1.57 for the season with the Bucs. At one point, he retired 15 consecutive batters. After Brandon Moss ended that streak with a two-out single in the seventh, Happ struck out Yadier Molina to end the inning.
The Pirates made the opposing pitcher, Carlos Martinez, work hard from the very beginning. He lasted just five innings, giving up four runs on seven hits with three walks. They scored two runs in the very first inning. After Gregory Polanco led off with a walk, Andrew McCutchen later singled with one out, putting runners at the corners. RBI singles by Jung-Ho Kang and Marte gave Pittsburgh an early 2-0 advantage.
Things broke open a bit in the fifth inning. Josh Harrison got things started with a one out single, and McCutchen drew a walk. After both runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, Marte hammered a two out two run double to right center, putting the Bucs in front 4-0.
Pittsburgh added another run in the top of the eighth inning on an RBI single by Francisco Cervelli, scoring Sean Rodriguez, who hit a one-out double after coming in for Pedro Alvarez as a defensive replacement.
The Cardinals scored a run on an RBI double by Stephen Piscotty. But with runners on second and third and two outs, Tony Watson got Jason Heyward to ground out to end the threat. The Bucs responded the very next inning with four runs, including RBI singles by Rodriguez and Jordy Mercer, and a pinch hit, two run double by Travis Snider.
This was a great way to start this weekend series for the Pirates. After a miserable series in Milwaukee, and having lost four games in a row, this team was desperate for a victory. Tonight, they played like a team that is trying to win this division. And while they have a long way to go to be in position to overtake the Cardinals, games like this show everyone, including the division leaders, that the Bucs will be a tough out the rest of this season and in the postseason.
The Pirates and Cardinals will face book tomorrow afternoon for the second game of the series at Busch Stadium. Charlie Morton will take the mound for Pittsburgh against Jaime Garcia for St. Louis. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05pm.
Record vs. Cardinals: 7-7
Record vs. N.L. Central: 22-32
Record on the Road: 34-32
Overall Record: 80-53
Let’s Go Bucs!