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Pirates take series opener over Cardinals 4-0

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ most maligned players on the season – Mitch Keller and Gregory Polanco – played key roles in the club’s 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Keller, who entered the game with a disappointing 3-10 record and a 6.86 ERA, blanked St. Louis on six hits over five innings, and Polanco contributed a pair of sacrifice flies as the Bucs took the first game of the three-game set.

Keller and Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas, who was making just his second start of the season after missing time with a forearm injury, matched zeroes through the first three innings before the Pirates struck for two runs in the top of the fourth inning.

Colin Moran led off the inning with a base hit and Jacob Stallings followed with a line single to center. Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader misplayed the ball, allowing Moran to score and Stallings to wind up at third base.

Polanco then followed with the first of his two sacrifice flies to make it 2-0.

The Pirates, who were outhit 10-4, added another in the sixth when Bryan Reynolds led off with a double, moved to third on Moran’s fly out to right and then came around on Polanco’s second sacrifice fly.

Keller got into trouble in the second when he allowed back-to-back singles to Yadier Molina and Lars Nootbaar, but he escaped by striking out Paul DeJong and – after walking Bader – inducing Mikolas to pop out to first to retire the side.

In addition to giving up six hits – all singles – Keller walked just one and struck out six.

Duane Underwood relieved Keller in the sixth and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

The Cardinals threatened in the seventh, as Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt each drew a walk with one out. But Underwood got Nolan Arenado to line out softly to short and David Bednar came on to get Tyler O’Neill to fly out to right to end the threat.

Yoshi Tsutsugo added a solo homer in the ninth for the Pirates’ final run.

The two teams will meet at 7:15 p.m. today in game two of the three-game series. Dillon Peters (0-1, 1.93 ERA) is slated to start for the Pirates against former Bucco J.A. Happ (7-6, 6.03 ERA).

NOTES – Nick Gonzales, the Pirates’ top pick in the 2019 draft, had a big night for High-A Greensboro, collecting a pair of doubles and a single, scoring twice and driving in a run in the Grasshoppers’ 7-6 win over Bowling Green. Liover Peguero added two hits and scored twice.

At Double-A Altoona, Oneil Cruz returned to the active roster after missing time with an arm injury, and he collected three hits, including two doubles, scored three times and drove in three runs for the Curve.

Jack Suwinski, obtained from San Diego in the Adam Frazier trade, clubbed a pair of solo homers and hot-hitting Matt Fraizer doubled and drove in three runs.

At Triple-A Indianapolis, Jared Oliva had a pair of hits and drove in three to help Max Kranick to a win. Kranick pitched six shutout innings, giving up four hits and striking out three.