Francisco Cervelli's grand slam was the decisive blow Wednesday afternoon as the Pirates beat the Cardinals 8-2, collecting their 96th win of the year and staying alive in the division race.
Neil Walker led off the second inning with a homer to put the Bucs up 1-0. The Cardinals tied it in the fourth as Matt Carpenter laced a double to right, moved up on a sacrifice, and came home on Matt Holliday's single. The inning ended prematurely for the Cardinals, however, as Gregory Polanco fielded a single on a bounce and threw a strike to home to beat Holliday.
Polanco and his teammates then came up huge in the bottom of the inning. Michael Wacha loaded the bases with a single, a walk and an intentional walk to Pedro Alvarez. Cervelli came to the plate and hit a changeup to left for a grand slam, giving the Bucs a 5-1 lead. The Pirates added another run later in the inning as Jordy Mercer walked and came home on Polanco's double.
In the sixth, Carpenter led off with a homer into the dirty water of the rain-ravaged Allegheny, but Mercer responded with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning.
I was a little surprised to see Gerrit Cole then come to the plate and attempt a bunt. He whiffed only two batters today and had just thrown a huge meatball on the Carpenter home run. While his day obviously wasn't bad by most pitchers' standards, it wasn't quite up to his. It also wasn't a terribly important contest to begin with, given the Pirates' limited odds of improving their playoff position, and the Bucs need Cole to be at his best whenever he starts next week.
Regardless, Cole pitched a scoreless seventh and left after having allowed two runs. That means he'll end his regular season with a 2.60 ERA, 202 strikeouts and 44 walks in 208 innings. And, for whatever it's worth, 19 wins. The competition for this year's Cy Young award is insane, but Cole's line would have been good enough to warrant serious consideration in most seasons. Hats off to him, and here's hoping he can keep his great season going whenever he pitches next.
Antonio Bastardo and Jared Hughes pitched scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, respectively, and the Pirates tacked on a run in the eighth as Harrison doubled and Polanco singled.
With the victory, it remains possible that the Bucs could win the NL Central, although they'll still have to continue to climb up a cliff to actually do so. It doesn't seem right to have negative thoughts about a Pirates grand slam, but I found myself wishing someone could have just hit one once on Monday, when they had all kinds of chances with the bases loaded and still lost 3-0. What's done is done, though, and it's probably best to put Monday's unfortunate game out of our heads, enjoy this win for a couple hours and hope the Pirates can do it again tonight.