The Pirates slowly fell behind in a low-scoring, one-run-at-a-time type of game, but came alive for two ninth-inning runs off Brett Cecil, capped by Adam Frazier’s walk-off single for a 4-3 victory on Sunday and a series win over the Cardinals coming out of the all-star break.
The Pirates (44-48) sit seven games back of first-place Milwaukee, with the Brewers coming to Pittsburgh for four games this week.
With a 3-2 lead, Mike Matheny went to the left-handed Cecil instead of his usual closer, Seung-Hwan Oh, who gave up Josh Bell’s walk-off homer on Friday.
Francisco Cervelli hit reached on a grounder shortstop Paul DeJong couldn’t handle. Gregory Polanco hit a tapper to the pitcher, but the only play was at first, sending Cervelli’s pinch runner, Josh Harrison, to second. Jordy Mercer then lined a double into the left-field corner to score Harrison and tie it at 3.
After a Jose Osuna pinch-hit groundout, David Freese, another pinch hitter, was intentionally walked to get to the left-handed hitting Frazier. Frazier knocked a 1-1 knuckle curve back to center, easily plating Mercer from second, then was mobbed by a sea of gold-shirted teammates between first and second.
Frazier got the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the first. He singled and stole second, then scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single.
After St. Louis tied it at 1 in the top of the fifth, the struggling Max Moroff regained the lead, smacking a solo homer off the right-field foul pole to lead off the bottom of the fifth.
That was all the Pirates would manage against a solid, efficient Carlos Martinez, who struck out five, walked one and gave up the two runs on five hits in seven innings.
Trevor Williams was effective enough, stranding four in the first four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Magneuris Sierra reached on an infield single — one of three the speedy 21-year-old had in a 4-for-4 day — and scored on Matt Carpenter’s double that dropped just fair in right field. Williams walked Tommy Pham before getting a pair of fielder’s choices to get out of the inning.
The Cardinals tied it at 2 in the sixth. Williams got two strikeouts in the inning, but gave up singles to Kolten Wong, Sierra and then the pitcher Martinez to score the tying run. That chased Williams, and Daniel Hudson got a Carpenter flyout with runners on the corners.
Williams was tagged with 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings, but he gave up just the two runs, with five strikeouts and two walks.
Tony Watson got through the seventh, but Juan Nicasio gave up his first home run of the season — in 41 2-3 innings — a solo shot to Yadier Molina in the eighth for a 3-2 Cardinals lead. Sierra later singled, and Nicasio made a wild pick-off throw to first, sending Sierra to third. Pinch-hitter Luke Voit walked, but Nicasio rebounded to fan Carpenter to get out of the jam.
Wade LeBlanc got around a Mercer error to get the Bucs through the top of the ninth.
Frazier was the only Pirate with multiple hits, going 2-for-4.