By: Jim Tsapelas
The St. Louis Cardinals came up short on Sunday night as their Central Division foes, the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cardinals by the score of seven to one. The Pirates took two games out of three in their three game series. With the Pirates win, the Cardinals lead in the Central Division was reduced to five and one-half games.
The Pirates arrived in St. Louis on Friday following a four game losing streak trailing the Redbirds by six and one-half games. The Pirates won Friday’s contest by the score of nine to three. On Saturday the Cardinals prevailed and took game two by the score of four to one.
Sunday’s seven to one win by the Pirates gave them the series win and took a game off the Cardinals’ lead in the standings. This was the first series the Pirates have won at Busch Stadium since April 2013. With the win, the Pirates remain four games in front of the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card race.
Pirates’ starter Gerrit Cole (16-8) was masterful in allowing just two hits over seven innings. Prior to Sunday’s start, Cole was 0-3 with a 4.34 ERA in his career at Busch.
Cardinals’ starter John Lackey (11-9) was able to keep the Cardinals in the game by spreading ten hits over seven and one-third innings. He allowed three earned runs, walked two, and struck out four. Lackey allowed a home run to Aramis Ramirez in the top of the eighth inning. It was Ramirez’s sixteenth home run of the season.
Lackey left the game following the Ramirez homer with the score Pirates three-Cardinals nothing. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny followed-up Lackey’s performance by bringing in reliever Steve Cishek. The side-armed pitching Cishek, who threw two-thirds of an inning, offered up a home run ball to Sean Rodriguez which also scored Francisco Cervelli. Rodriguez entered the game as a pinch-runner for Pedro Alvarez and remained in the game taking over first-base duties for Alvarez. It was Rodriguez’s fourth home run of the season. The Pirates plated three runs in the top of the eighth making the score Pirates five-Cardinals nothing.
In the top of the ninth the Pirates added to their lead as Josh Harrison scored on Starling Marte’s sixteenth home run of the 2015 season. Score: Pittsburgh seven-St. Louis nothing.
The Cardinal’s offense failed to offer Lackey much in the way of support. The bullpen appeared to have difficulties in continuing to keep the game close. The Cardinals employed a faint rally in the bottom of the ninth when pinch-hitter Greg Garcia doubled to start off the inning. Garcia scored when Cody Stanley, who was also pinch-hitting, singled Garcia home. Final score Pirates seven-Cardinals one.
On Labor Day the Chicago Cubs who are chasing the Pirates in the Wild Card race and chasing the Cardinals for the Divisional title come to Busch for the first of a three game set. The former Cardinal Dan Haren (1-2) faces off against the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn (11-8).
Not too long ago the National League Central Division was seen as one of the weakest in baseball. Now the National League Central Division is arguably the strongest in all of baseball. The Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs are three of the best, if not the three best teams in Major League Baseball this year.
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