In the recap I wish I could write tonight, the Pirates don't win, but the game story is clean and tidy: Matt Carpenter, an ancient enemy deserving of a certain grudging respect, crushes the Pirates with a three-run homer against tonight's victim of Bullpen Roulette, Neftali Feliz. The homer turns a two-run lead by the Pirates into a 3-2 lead for the Cardinals. It follows a single by backup catcher Eric Fryer, a hard-earned walk by pinch-hitter Greg Garcia, and a mound visit by Ray Searage. Whatever Searage says to Feliz, it doesn't work. Carpenter launches the first post-visit pitch down the line in right, and the game turns.
The tidy recap includes hand-wringing about the two key Pirates who suffer injuries whose severity is unknown. Starter Gerrit Cole left the game after facing one batter in the third with what is being described by the Pirates as right-tricep tightness, and Francisco Cervelli left the game after taking a big swing in the fourth with what they describe as left-hand pain. Note the absence of the word "discomfort" in both of these descriptions, and give the Pirates credit for coming up with new ways of not saying much.
There would have been praise in the recap for the yeomanlike performance of the previously unheralded A.J. Schugal, who entered the game in the third when Cole left and gave the Pirates four strong innings of hitless relief, surrendering only one hit batsman. Cardinals starter Michael Wacha too would have received some grudging praise for a solid seven-inning performance in which he gave up only two runs to the Pirates, one in the second on a single by Starling Marte followed by a perfectly executed hit-and-run single by Cervelli and a slow grounder by Harrison, and the other in the fifth on a walk by Jordy Mercer, a sacrifice by Schugel, and a single by John Jaso.
But no, these are the Cardinals and the Pirates. It's not enough for one team just to beat the other. Guts must wrench. Teeth must gnash.
With the Pirates trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth against Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, Marte led off by lacing a ball down the right-field line that Stephen Piscotty dove for and missed, allowing Marte easily to get to third with a triple. After Chris Stewart drew a walk and Josh Harrison popped up on the first pitch he saw, Mercer was able to dump a flare just over the head of Carpenter in short right field. The Pirates had battled back to tie the game against a tough closer, and they had a good chance to win when pinch hitter Matt Joyce walked to load the bases with one out, putting the winning run on third. But it wasn't to be; Rosenthal struck out Sean Rodriguez and got Andrew McCutchen to fly out to medium center field, and extra innings ensued.
They were decent ones for the Pirates from Mark Melancon, who worked around two walks in the 10th, and Jared Hughes, who pitched an uneventful 11th. The Pirates had a chance in the 10th against Jonathan Broxton despite Gregory Polanco, one of the two or three Pirates most likely to end the game with a home run, trying to surprise the Cardinals with a spectacularly ill-advised, unsuccessful attempt at a bunt single. With two outs, though, the Pirates managed to get Marte to second. But Broxton struck out Stewart.
The memory of the Jonathan Broxton whom the Pirates once predictably and repeatedly destroyed regardless of what uniform he was wearing began receding on the day that he donned Cardinals Red. Broxton pitched an easy 11th, and then came the 12th. The Pirates had by then used seven relief pitchers, and the last man standing was Juan Nicasio, who had started a game three days ago but was due today to pitch a bullpen session in preparation for his upcoming start next Tuesday against the Mets. Things looked good when he struck out Molina and Stephen Piscotty, but Carpenter--him again--worked a walk, bringing up Aledmys Diaz. Broxton was on deck and the Cardinals were out of position players, so the Pirates made the unconventional but defensible decision to walk Diaz intentionally and force the Cardinals to use one of their pitchers to pinch hit. The pitcher they chose, Adam Wainwright, crushed a two-run double into the gap, the Cardinals dugout erupted with glee, and Wainwright did a little Happy Dance at second base. Then Nicasio and the Pirates fell apart and gave up four more runs. That's all I want to say about that inning, or this game.
The only consolation I can summon is that it is June, and there are opportunities on the schedule for retribution. But if retribution is ever to occur, the Pirates had better fix their bullpen and their pitching staff.