It was an inauspicious initial appearance for Chris Archer, as St. Louis had guys all over the bases in every inning of the game, but Adam Frazier’s two-out eighth inning single drove in Josh Harrison, breaking a 6-6 tie en route to a Pittsburgh victory in the opener of the three game weekend series.
Archer’s slider was biting and fastball sat 95 to 97 throughout his 97 pitches on the night, but only 57 were for strikes as his command was fleeting.
The Cardinals collected 15 hits, 6 walks and 2 hit batsmen in the game and reached base 12 times off Archer in only 4 1⁄3 innings of work. They got off to a quick start when Matt Carpenter drove a 2-0 fastball into the seats in center field, leading off the game with his 27th home run and staking St. Louis to a 1-0 lead.
The Pirates truck back quickly off Redbirds’ hurler John Gant, as Frazier led off with a ground double to right and Starling Marte was declared safe at first when replay overturned the out call before Gregory Polanco smashed a triple off the right-center wall and he came home on Colin Moran’s sacrifice fly.
St. Louis wouldn’t lay down at their first three batters of the second reached base. Jedd Gyorko walked, Dexter Fowler singled and Yairo Munoz doubled to right to plate a run and cut the Pirates lead to 3-2. With runners at second and third and no one out, Archer got the pitcher Gant to strike out swinging, but after two pitches out of the zone to Carpenter he was waved to first to load the bases. Archer then got Yadier Molina swinging on a 3-2 pitch, then with two outs Paul DeJong also swung through a 3-2 offering - but the 29 pitch inning would take it’s toll on Archer.
The Pirates threw another three spot on Gant in the third as Frazier singled, went to third on a Marte double and scored on Polanco’s sacrifice fly to center. After Colin Moran walked with two outs, both Francisco Cervelli and Josh Harrison ripped first pitch singles to drive in a run apiece.
Archer then had a 6-2 lead into the fifth inning, but he couldn’t finish in order to qualify himself for the win. DeJong led off with a 3-2 walk, but from there it was mostly poor defense, Jordy Mercer booted Marcell Ozuna’s grounder to short, then with runners at first and second things got wild all around as Tyler O’Neill lifted a high fly to center field that Marte signaled he could not see. Adam Frazier raced over from left and dove, the ball deflecting off his glove. Ozuna raced from first to third when he saw the ball drop, failing to notice the DeJong had stopped at third, and Ozuna was easily tagged out. Gyorko then reached for a slider and dropped a dying quail into right and Fowler hit a seeing eye grounder between three infielders, each driving in a run as the Cardinals closed to within 6-4 and drove Archer from the game. Munoz greeted reliever Edgar Santana with a single to load the bases and pinch-hitter Jose Martinez’s slow grounder drove in the fifth run. After Carpenter was again intentionally walked to load the bases, Molina fell down while hitting a check swing tapper to third for the final out.
Santana stayed on for the sixth, but after two singles and a walk loaded the bases, Richard Rodriguez had to be called on to get Munoz to ground out to end the inning.
Without using a double-switch, that would be the only batter Rodriguez would face and newcomer Keone Kela came on in the seventh. Carpenter lined a double into the right field corner with one out, but after Molina struck out swinging DeJong laced a single to Polanco in right field, who fired a one-hopper to Cervelli at the plate who tagged out Carpenter to end the inning preserve the Pirates’ one run lead.
It was Kyle Crick’s turn in the eighth, and again the Cardinals put the lead off batter on base when his pitch nicked Ozuna in the arm. O’Neill followed with a single to right center and when Marte tried unsuccessfully to gun down Ozuna at third O’Neill scampered into second. With the tying run at third an the lead run at second, the Pirates’ infield played back for the out and Ozuna did indeed score the tying run on Gyorko’s grounder up the middle that was handled by Harrison - only the second run allowed by Crick in his last twenty appearances. With the lead run then at third with one one the infield did come in, and O’Neill was cut down on the contact play as first baseman David Freese fired the ball home on Fowler’s grounder.
With the score tied at 6, Cardinals’ manager Mike Shildt brought in rookie flame thrower Jordan Hicks, but before they noticed Fowler coming up lame on the bases during the third out. With pinch hitter Harrison Bader already declared out of the game, St. Louis’ last bench player, catcher Francisco Pena had to come in behind the plate, as Molina went to first, Carpenter to third, Gyorko to second and Munoz to right. Hicks was dealing at 100 to 102 mph, but the new defense let him down quickly as Carpenter at third could only get off a weak throw to Molina at first as Harrison beat out an infield single. Mercer battled to a 3-2 walk, but pinch hitter Jose Osuna swung weakly at a slider for the second out. Adam Frazier, already with two hits in the game, then smacked an inside 101 mph fastball up the middle, past the reach of shortstop DeJong, as Harrison raced home to give the Pirates a 7-6 lead.
Then it was up to good Felipe in the ninth. Cranking it up to 100, he did allow an opposite field line single to Molina, but DeJong struck out swinging and Ozuna lifted a lazy fly to left to end the game.
The win pushes the Pirates’ record to 57-53, 4.0 games out of the second Wild Card and in the division a game ahead of the Cardinals and 6.5 behind the front running Cubs who had defeated San Diego earlier in the day.
The series continues Saturday night as the Cardinals’ lefty Austin Gomber (1-0, 3.22) will make his second start of the year, opposed by the Pirates’ Ivan Nova (6-6, 4.33)
After the game it was announced that Dexter Fowler, who came up limping between second and third as an out at first ended the eight inning, would be placed on the disabled list with a broken left foot.