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Williams, Cervelli lead Pirates to 4th straight & regain 1st place

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Williams struggled with the strike zone early on, but allowed only a pair of runs in six innings, scattering six hits and two walks as the Pirates downed the Cardinals for the second straight night.

On another sparsely attended cold night (the Cartwrights were in attendance but the spawn were suffering and we left after four innings) Francisco Cervelli put the Bucs up 1-0 in the second when he put his fourth homer into the seats in the left field corner.

The Cards responded quickly in the third when Paul DeJong led off with a line single to left and went to second on Kolten Wong’s bunt. After pitcher Jack Flaherty struck out, Tommy Pham lined a double off the right center wall to tie it up at one.

The Pirates managed put put runners on against the St. Louis rookie pitcher Flaherty, but almost always followed up with a double play grounder, tallying three in the first five innings.

Things were looking down when the Cardinals jumped ahead 2-1 in the sixth on a double by Jose Martinez and a single by Marcell Ozuna - but it was all Pirates from there.

Both Adam Frazier and Gregory Polanco walked to tharted the bottom of the sixth, chasing Flaherty from the game after only 82 pitches, 48 for strikes (a low 58%) He’d had a wlk and nine K’s in his first start, but struggled against the Bucs while issuing four walks and only two strikeouts in his five plus innings.

Against the new pitcher Dominic Leone, Starling Marte grounded into a force, putting runners at first and third, but Josh Bell put a grounder up the middle for a single, driving in Frazier with the tying run, and then both Marte and Bell gained an extra base when center fielder Tommy Pham bobbled the ball for his second error in two nights. After an intentional walk to Corey Dickerson to load the bases and set up a double play opportunity, Cervelli flew out to the track in center, moving up all three runners and putting the Pirates into lead by a score of 3-2.

They added another pair of runs in the seventh on a leadoff double by Jordy Mercer, a walk to the pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez, and after a rare passed ball by Yadi Molina, a sacrifice fly by David Freese. Then it was more small ball, as Polanco was hit by a pitch, Marte beat out a roller to the pitcher and Dickerson drove in the fifth run on a soft roller to third base.

The Pirates added an insurance run in the eighth, again in small fashion, as Colin Moran walked, pinch-hitter Max Moroff singled to left, and Polanco’s ground ball skipped by first baseman Martinez, his third boot in two games.

After Williams pitched six, the bullpen shut the door. Michael Feliz worked a one-hit seventh, George Kontos set down three in a row without the aid of a strikeout, and with the game no longer in a save situation, Edgar Santana K’d two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to close out the win.

With the victory the Pirates move a half game ahead of each of the Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, with Cincinnati 9 12 games back. They’ll go for a sweep Sunday afternoon when Nick Kingham makes his major league debut against Luke Weaver.