Josh Bell went four-for-four with a walk, including a game tying three-run homer in a five-run seventh inning, as the Pirates downed the Cardinals 10-6 to take three out of four games in the series.
The Pirates faithful were in great spirits after the team scored three runs in the top of the first inning off Cardinals’ starter Dakota Hudson, two on a double by Bell over the head of right-fielder Jose Martinez, but Pirates starter Stephen Brault was awful, giving it all back and more.
The glee quickly turned to gloom when the Cardinals started their half of the first with a single preceding Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run homer. A walk and four more singles, including pitcher Hudson’s first major league hit, plated two more as the Cardinals led 4-3 after just the first inning.
But there’s moar! In the second, Brault walked Paul DeJong with one out and he scored on Martinez’s long home run to left-center, extending the Cardinals’ lead to 6-3 after two.
Somehow Brault made it through a scoreless third, but at 96 pitches needed to be relieved by recently recalled rookie Montana DuRapau in the fourth, who made quick work of the next four batters, striking out a pair.
Zeroes were posted until the seventh when Tyler Webb came on to replace the starter Hudson. Bryan Reynolds worked a walk and Gregory Polanco was hit by a pitch, prompting a mound visit with two on and no one out. Bell, who’d had a double and two singles and batted balls of 100, 108 and 104 mph, slammed a 1-1 pitch at 111.8, just clearing the right field fence with a three-run homer that tied the game 6-6.
But there’s moar! With one out Francisco Cervelli doubled on a looping fly to right that evaded Martinez and with two outs pinch-hitter Melky Cabrera walked, setting the stage for another pinch-hitter, Adam Frazier, to drive a double to the wall in right-center field, driving in Cervelli as well as Cabrera, all the way from first base, to give Pittsburgh an 8-6 lead.
They tacked on two more insurance runs in the eighth as after a Polanco single and a wild pitch, the Cardinals waved Bell down to first on an intentional walk, but Colin Moran foiled that strategy with yet another ball past the outstretched arm of the right fielder Martinez, good for a two-run double.
With a four-run lead and Kyle Crick apparently fatigued after highly stressful innings (for both him and the fans) on both Friday and Saturday, Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle signalled for veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano. He walked the first batter he faced in the eighth but followed with three soft outs.
Sent back out for the ninth, with one out Martinez drove a ball to the left field wall but it was pulled in by Bryan Reynolds. Yadier Molina singled with two outs, but Jedd Gyorko ended the game with a tapper to short.
In the end, the Pirates’ bullpen worked five and a third scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and a walk, while the Cardinals bullpen was torched for seven runs. Chris Stratton, in his first day in a Pirates’ uniform, was awarded the win.
Bell finish with four hits, three runs scored and five driven in, raising his batting average to .319 and OPS to 1.048. Polanco had two hits and three runs scored (now with a .317 BA) and Cervelli had three hits.
With the win, the Pirates improve their record to 20-17, good for third place in the division, 3.0 games behind the front-running Cubs, and percentage points ahead of the now fourth place Cardinals.
The Pirates travel to Phoenix on Monday for their next game at 9:40 p.m. Eastern, with Nick Kingham (1-0, 5.94) scheduled to face Robbie Ray (2-1, 3.30)