Only in this strange 2020 season is an eight-inning game considered extra.
The Pirates, however, continued their tendency to save their offense for the later innings, which combined with some stellar defense got them the 4-3 win against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of today’s doubleheader at Busch Stadium.
Chad Kuhl pitched a solid if unspectacular six innings (it probably would have been eight in a regular game), giving up only one run, a Yadier Molina home run into left field in the fifth, and walking four. He just had one strikeout, but he saved it for his final out, whiffing Tyler O’Neill. Chris Stratton’s seventh inning went 1-2-3.
Cardinals starter Kwang Hyung Kim was also steady in his six, striking out three and walking one. His defense wasn’t helpful though—in the top of the fourth inning, Cole Tucker reached safely after third baseman Brad Miller threw a routine grounder over first baseman Matt Carpenter’s head. Josh Bell walked after a Kevin Newman lineout, and Bryan Reynolds struck out. Up came Jacob Stallings, who these days is about as clutch a hitter as the Bucs have, and he came through again, singling Tucker home to get the Pirates on the board first.
In other news, Will Craig finally made his long-anticipated MLB debut in the game. While he went oh-for-three at the plate, he showed glimpses of patience and promise, including a towering fly ball to left in the seventh that Pirates announcer Greg Brown breathlessly proclaimed would have been a home run in 18 of the 30 MLB parks. He was most impressive, though, at first base, making a couple of outstanding plays, including a massive stretch to capture a short Jose Osuna throw from third.
In the top of the eighth inning, Tucker singled off Cardinals reliever John Gant, which scored extra inning runner Jarrod Dyson to get the Pirates up 2-1. He advanced to second after a wild pitch by Gant and got to third on a Newman groundout. Bell walked again, and Reynolds singled Tucker home. Another Brad Miller error scored Bell, and suddenly it was 4-1 Pirates.
But, of course, there had to be some excitement, and that came courtesy of Richard Rodriguez in the bottom of the eighth. Extra Cardinals runner Dexter Fowler got to third on a Dylan Carlson single and scored on a Kolten Wong sacrifice. Back-to-back singles by Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt, the latter single courtesy of RichRod’s leg, got Carlson home and made it 4-3. In what one might consider the icing on his error-ridden game cake, Brad Miller whiffed resoundingly to give the Bucs the win.
The Pirates’ offense may be spotty, but they continue to make some excellent defensive plays. In addition to Craig’s contributions, Reynolds chased down a foul ball with a lovely slide, and Tucker, who played center for most of the game, also made a great play to send the game into extra innings. Let’s see if the recent mini-sweep by the White Sox can be avenged!