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Missed Opportunities Cost Pirates In 3-0 Loss

Prior to tonight’s game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates, it was believed by most that this was the biggest regular season series in the history of PNC Park. Unfortunately, the Bucs seemed to have buckled under the pressure of the spotlight, wasting numerous scoring opportunities and committing a costly error late, resulting in a 3-0 loss.

The Bucs now trail the Cards by four games for the N.L. Central lead, and it makes the quest for the division title nearly impossible.

Pittsburgh left 16 runners on base tonight, including four times with the bases loaded, and were 0-11 with runners in scoring position. On the other hand, St. Louis looked lost at the plate throughout much of the evening, but as they’ve done all season, came through in the clutch late in the game, putting a three spot on the home team in the ninth inning.

Neither of tonight’s starters lasted long at PNC Park. And while neither pitcher earned a decision, there was no question which of the two was more efficient. J.A. Happ was magnificent tonight, giving up one hit and striking out four, throwing just 56 pitches in six innings of work. Lance Lynn, on the other hand, gave up four hits and four walks, tossing 96 pitches in five innings. But the most important statistic, runs allowed, remained at zero.

The Pirates first strong chance to score came in the second inning. After a Starling Marte walk and a Neil Walker double, Pedro Alvarez was intentionally walked to load the bases and only one out. But Jordy Mercer field out to center, and Jason Heyward threw out Marte trying to tag and score for the inning’s final out.

They loaded the bases again in the third on back to back one out hits by Gregory Polanco and Josh Harrison, and a walk to Andrew McCutchen. But Marte struck out and Walker grounded out to end the threat.

After stranding a run in the fifth, the Bucs loaded the bases AGAIN in the sixth inning. Walker led off with a walk, and Alvarez later walked with one out. Two batters later, Michael Morse, who pinch-hit for Happ, forced a walk, loading the bases for Polanco. But the Pirates’ right fielder flied out to end the inning.

The trend continued in the seventh for the Pirates offense. McCutchen got things started with a one out single, stole second, and advanced to third on an error by Jhonny Peralta, putting runners at first and third. After a Francisco Cervelli walk, Alvarez came to the plate with the bases loaded. The El Toro flied out to left field. Inning over.

St. Louis had their best chance to score in the seventh inning against Joakim Soria. Stephen Piscotty walked with one out, advanced to second on a groundout by Matt Holliday, and moved to third on an infield single by Heyward. But with runners on first and third, Soria struck out Peralta to end the threat.

But the Cardinals broke through in the ninth inning against Mark Melancon, with a lot of help from the Pirates outfield. Matt Carpenter singled with one out, to get things started. Jon Jay singled, and Polanco overran the ball and McCutchen struggled to pick it up as well, allowing Carpenter to score all the way from first. Mark Reynolds followed that up with a two run homerun to right center to push the lead to 3-0.

Pittsburgh did force the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth after a McCutchen walk and Marte single. But after Walker struck out and Cervelli flied out, Aramis Ramirez lined out to end the game.

This was just a devastating loss for the Pirates tonight. There were a handful of times tonight that it looked as though the Bucs were break this game wide open. They had so many opportunities in almost every inning, but they just couldn’t come through with that one clutch hit. In terms of the division, their chances of a title are on life support.

They’ll return to action for the second game of the series against the Cardinals tomorrow night at PNC Park. Michael Wacha will take the mound for St. Louis against Charlie Morton for Pittsburgh. First pitch is at 7:05pm.

Record vs. Cardinals: 8-9

Record vs. N.L. Central: 31-40

Record at Home: 50-26

Overall Record: 95-52

 

And…

As Always…

Let’s Go Bucs!

Chad Carlson

Co-Editor of Fans From The Stands, Pirates' Beat Writer For Armchair Report, Sports writer for AMN, SteelTownRock And Music City Encore Editor