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Pirates lose third straight 2-1 game to Cards

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

In all too familiar fashion, a lackluster performance by the Pittsburgh offense spoiled yet another solid start from the rotation. It was the third straight 2-1 loss for the team, continuing the their unfortunate pattern of sweeping their opponents or being swept themselves.

The Bucs’ lone score came on a Josh Bell homer to center field in the top of the fourth, his first of the season. It was a particularly impressive at bat for Bell in his second face-off against Michael Wacha, who struck him out on just three pitches in the first. Wacha had been working hard to jam Bell or throw him junk, but Bell remained patient this time, providing the Pirates with their only extra base hit all game.

To be fair, it is not as though the Cardinals were exactly lighting things up. Gerrit Cole cruised through their lineup, shutting down everyone not named Dexter fowler in a six inning and eight strikeout performance. Fowler, mired in an early season slump before this series, gave the cardinals an early 1-0 lead when he sent a 2-0 fastball over the outside corner of the plate soaring for a 401 feet homer to right field. After that hit, Fowler must have been listening to the Root Sports commentary because they were insistent Cole should attack him inside next time around. Well, Fowler was ready for that attack, pulling the expected pitch just inside the foul pole for his second long ball of the day. It was the only damage the Cardinals inflicted all afternoon, but it was enough to win the game.

Pittsburgh had its best opportunity to try and tie up the game in the eighth inning, kicking off things with two successive pinch hitters. The first, Jose Osuna, flied out to Fowler in his second big league at bat. Subsequently, Cervelli didn’t fare much better, hitting a grounder to the pitcher, but in a stroke of good luck, Matt Carpenter muffed the catch to put the tying run on first base. On the very next play, Josh Harrison shot a grounder to shortstop, which was probably too difficult for a double play, but still an easy out. Yet, Greg Garcia made a second straight error for the Cards, giving the Bucs runners on first and second with no outs.

Bell proceeded to hit a deep fly ball to left field that should have advanced Cervelli to third; however, a strong throw forced Cervelli to put on the brakes. In the next at bat, Andrew McCutchen caught a bit of a break with a slider on the edge of the plate getting labeled a ball to enable him to eventually load the bases via a walk. With bases loaded, Polanco came to the mound to face left-hander Kevin Siegrist and rifled a grounder down the first base line. It looked like the Pirates were finally going to be able to capitalize on runners in scoring position, yet, Carpenter dove across the chalk, snagging the ball and beating out Polanco to first.

After that, the Pirates went down without a fight, getting swept in a series where they allowed six or less runs for the first time since 1913 according to Joe Block.

Perhaps, a positive note, besides another strong pitching performance, is that Mccutchen looked like he was playing center field with an awfully big chip on his shoulder even making a stellar diving catch in the third.