The Pirates and Cardinals traded punches for the first half of their game Saturday, but the decision to try to get multiple innings out of rookie pitcher Alex McRae may have cost the Bucs the game, losing 8-4.
Both starters Ivan Nova and Austin Gomber lasted only four innings after allowing four runs each. Nova allowed his four runs on eight hits, three walks and two strikeouts. He threw nine first pitch strikes to his 22 batters faced and retired four on three pitches or fewer.
The Pirates got on the board first on a second inning David Freese home run, but fell behind 4-1 by the time Nova exited, with the big blow being a two out, two run double by Jedd Gyorko in the third inning. The Pirates tied the game up in the home half of the fourth on a two out RBI single from Jordy Mercer and two run double by Adam Frazier.
Manager Clint Hurdle went to McRae to start the fifth, and the righty’s second major league outing did not go well, allowing three runs on five hits and four walks in 3.1 innings. He took the loss in his first major league decision. Gyorko again delivered a key run scoring double in the fifth, which turned out to be the game-winner.
Hurdle cited heavy usage of his bullpen recently for his decision to go to a long man then. Pirates starters have only gone 9.1 innings over their last three starts, and Edgar Santana and Keone Kela were determined to be unavailable before the game started.
“McRae is here for a reason,” Hurdle said. “...You can run it [the bullpen], and yeah, maybe you stay tied. If you get underneath though, then you’re using your bridge guys, you’re going to take them out of the game tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, St. Louis got three shutout innings of relief from their rookie pitcher Dakota Hudson (2-0). The Pirates only managed one hit in the final five innings of the game against him, Mike Mayers and Bud Norris.
Francisco Cervelli: Picking Machine
Francisco Cervelli made his seventh career start at first base Saturday. It’s the first time he has played the position since 2016, but it might have been a little more exhausting than he remembered.
“I think I’m more tired than when I’m catching,” Cervelli said. “I’ve got to run too much.
“It’s part time.”
It was a fairly quiet night at first for him, but he did make an above average pick in the fifth inning.
“I thought he handled himself very well,” Hurdle said. “...Not a lot of activity. He held the base. Didn’t make any mound visits.”
Fighting off the temptation of talking to pitchers mid-inning was one of the hardest parts of playing first base for Cervelli. He said multiple times that he would do whatever the team asks him to to help them win. Still, his gift of gab does not play as well in the field as it does at home plate.
“I like to talk a lot. Especially with hitters, umpires,” Cervelli said. “I have no one to talk [to] because now with the shift and everybody’s over there [and] you cannot talk to anyone. So I miss my gear and my squatting.”
The Pirate and Cardinals will conclude their three game series Sunday at 1:35 p.m. before embarking on a nine game road trip. Trevor Williams (9-7, 3.89) will take the hill against Jack Flaherty (4-6, 3.49).
- This loss snaps a streak of 14 straight wins when the Pirates score first. They are 40-16 this year when they open the scoring.
- Freese is slashing .371/.426/.645 with four home runs since July 3.
- Pirates outfielders picked up their 26th assist of the season, which leads the National League.