The Pirates couldn't come through when it mattered most, either at the plate or on the mound, and they lost a 5-4 decision to the Cards that left them a game up on St. Louis in the hunt for one of two wild card spots.
The Cards jumped right on Pirates starter Erik Bedard as Rafael Furcal led off the home half of the first with a double and Matt Carpenter followed with a single to center to make it 1-0. The Pirates tied it in the top of the third when Jordy Mercer got the first of two RBIs with a single to left that brought around Clint Barmes.
The Redbirds went back ahead with two in the fourth on a walk and two doubles, but Bedard was able to squelch the threat by getting a line drive double play and a strikeout of his mound opponent Lance Lynn. Again the Pirates tied it. Starling Marte led off the top of the fifth with a bunt single and Mercer doubled him home. After an Andrew McCutchen pop out, more on him later, Mercer moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a Garrett Jones sacrifice fly.
Unfortunately, Bedard couldn't shut the door in the bottom half of the inning. Furcal opened with a single. Bedard retired the next two batters but Allen Craig single put runners on the corners. After a Ray Searage visit to the mound, David Freese walked on five pitches, loading the bases. Clint Hurdle elected to stay with Bedard with Yadier Molina due up. As I've mentioned many times, Hurdle often seems to stick with his starters through the fifth in order to give them a chance to be in line for the win. Most recently we saw it with the James McDonald implosion against the Padres when he blew a 7-1 lead and the Bucs eventually lost 9-8. Different day, same result. Molina hit a ground-rule double to right scoring two (the ground rule saved a run) and sending Bedard to the showers. Jared Hughes, who would go a strong 2.1 scoreless, came on to strike out Shane Robinson to keep it at 5-3.
From there the Pirates had multiple chances but couldn't convert. They finished the game 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. Their best opportunity came in the ninth when Gaby Sanchez opened with a single, Yamaico Navarro, on to replace Marte who left with discomfort in his right side, reached on an error and Jordy Mercer was hit in the hand with a pitch (x-rays negative, but expect Mercer to miss some time). Bases loaded, no outs and MVP-candidate Andrew McCutchen to the plate. Cutch grounded into a 6-4 force out, driving in a run, but ending a miserable day in which he went 0-for-5 and left six on base. It was McCutchen's worst game in a long time and for one of the first times all year he looked out of sorts at the plate. Garrett Jones followed, getting ahead of Jason Motte 3-0, but Motte came back and struck him out and then got Josh Harrison to ground out to end the game.
Another tough loss for the Bucs, and now injuries are a concern, as Neil Walker missed his fourth straight game with a dislocated finger, and both Marte and Mercer had to leave. With a weak bench as is, Neal Huntington may be forced to make some roster moves so the Pirates don't continue to play shorthanded.
Jeff Karstens takes the mound tomorrow against Jamie Garcia, who was activated from the disabled list after today's game. The rubber game of the set is scheduled to start at 2:15 EST.