Pirates starter Ivan Nova lasted only 3 2⁄3 innings, surrendering a pair of long two-run homers as the Pirates dropped the opening game of their series in St. Louis.
Only four batters into the bottom of the first the result of the game was never really in doubt. Matt Carpenter led off that frame with a soft grounder right at second baseman Adam Frazier, but close enough to first baseman Josh Bell that he tried to make a play but only succeeded in deflecting the ball away for an infield single. After a wild pitch and a ground out, Jose Martinez launched the first pitch he saw at 105 mph, landing beyond the left field fence, 402 feet from home plate.
St. Louis lathered, rinsed and repeated in the fourth when Martinez led off with a ground single up the middle and the next batter Tyler O’Neill sent a 1-2 pitch 436 feet, over the bullpen in left center, and good for a 4-0 Cardinals lead. Despite a low pitch count, Nova appeared cooked at that point, giving up two walks sandwiched around a base hit, the second to the opposing pitcher Jack Flaherty, before Pirates manager had seen enough.
Meanwhile the Pirates had even managed to reach base against Flaherty until Francisco Cervelli lined a single over short to open the fifth. Corey Dickerson smacked the very next pitch to second base for a double play, but Josh Bell lined a double to right and Colin Moran singled up the middle to put the Pirates on the board, although down 4-1.
Flaherty went seven innings allowing just that one run on four hits, no walks and five strikeouts. Jordan Hicks came on to pitch the eighth and when it was obvious that he ws struggling to throw strikes it gave a glimmer of hope to the Pirates’ faithful. Josh Bell led off with a five pitch walk as all of Hicks’ 100 to 102 mph offerings sailed high. The first pitch to Colin Moran was also out of the zone, but he then singled to right and the Pirates had runners at the corners with no one out. Adeinys Hechevarria then proceeded to bounce the first pitch he say right to third for an around the horn double play as Bell scored the second run. Even pinch-hitter Josh Harrison showed more patience than that, walking on four pitches. When Starling Marte beat out a tapper to third Adam Frazier came to the plate as the lead run, but Hicks departed in favor of Dakota Hudson who got Frazier to ground out to end the threat.
The Cardinals tacked on a final run in the bottom of the eighth when reliever Kyle Crick hit Paul Dejong with a pitch and Jedd Gyorko lashed a ball off the top of the fence in left field. Originally signaled a home run, on review it was determined to be a double as the ball had caromed back the way it came. Crick struck out Harrison Bader on a nice slider but Greg Garcia grounded a single up the middle to drive in DeJong.
One bright spot for the Pirates was the pitching of Steven Brault, who followed up on his four inning scoreless appearance in extra innings in Milwaukee on Friday with another 3 1⁄3 innings without allowing a run, fanning six batters without a walk.
The second contest of the three game series will be at 8:15 pm Eastern on Wednesday as the Pirates’ Trevor Williams (10-9, 3.44) faces St. Louis right-hander Miles Mikolas (13-3, 2.94)