The St. Louis Cardinals are trying to hold on to their division lead in the NL Central down the stretch and a big series on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates could go a long way to deciding the winner as the Pirates have made it interesting lately.
It was a playoff-type game as runs were very hard to come by with both starters and bullpens not wanting to be the one to crack first.
Lance Lynn got the start for the Cardinals and went five shutout innings giving up just four hits while striking out six and walking four. After some tough starts lately, it was good for St. Louis to get a good start out of Lynn heading towards the playoffs after losing Carlos Martinez for the season with a shoulder injury.
As for the Pirates, left-hander J.A. Happ got the start and turned in another good outing for the Buccos. Happ went six shutout innings giving up one hit while striking out four and walking none. Since coming over from the Seattle Mariners, Happ has been a solid addition to their rotation.
Both teams had chances throughout this game to crack the scoreboard. The Pirates left the bases loaded in the sixth, the Cardinals left runners on first and third in seventh, and then again in the bottom of the seventh the Pirates left the bases juiced again. There were a lot of missed chances for both sides, but it wasn't until the ninth when the Cardinals were the team to breakthrough.
With the game still knotted at 0-0, the Pirates were looking to get it to the bottom of the ninth still tied at zero. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle brought on his closer Mark Melancon who has been fantastic out of the bullpen this season.
With Matt Carpenter at first, Jon Jay singled to right center and Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco slipped and couldn't get a handle on the baseball which let Carpenter come all the way around from first and break the seal on this game. It was an E-9 and a costly one at that.
Then the next batter to the plate was Mark Reynolds, who proceeded to unload on a 0-2 fastball to right center field for a two-run home run to give the Cardinals a commanding 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal came on to try to close it down, but he had to work for this one. The first two batters, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, got on by a walk and single respectively, but then Rosenthal came back to get the next three Pirates batters in order to lock down the save and get a big win.
With the win, the Cardinals extend their lead to four games in the NL Central over the Pirates. Pittsburgh leads the Cubs for the first wild card spot by four games, as well.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, there was a scary scene when Josh Harrison hit a deep fly ball to left center field. Cardinals outfielders Peter Bourjos and Stephen Piscotty were running hard to track it down and the two collided with Bourjos kneeing Piscotty in the face as he went to slide for it. Piscotty was down on the grass for several minutes and was carted off of the field. It appeared he was bleeding from his mouth and was transported to a nearby hospital and was initially diagnosed with a head contusion. This could be a big loss for St. Louis if he is out for an extended period of time.
Game two of the series continues Tuesday in Pittsburgh as the Cardinals will send Michael Wacha to the hill to face Charlie Morton of the Pirates.
WP: Jonathan Broxton (4-5, 4.53 ERA)
LP: Mark Melancon (3-2, 2.29 ERA)
SV: Trevor Rosenthal (48 saves, 2.10 ERA)