The St. Louis Cardinals had fallen 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night, and, as the All-Star break gets close, the two National League Central division rivals continued to face off on Saturday night in the third game of a four game series.
And it was a thrilling game, that just didn’t end in the Cardinals favor.
Andrew McCutcheon hit a walk-off, two-run home run off reliever Nick Greenwood in the bottom of the fourteenth inning, as the Pirates defeated the Cardinals 6-5, cutting the Cardinals’ lead in the division down to 3.5 games.
The pitching matchup for the evening’s game featured two veterans who are among the top five in wins among active pitchers: John Lackey (7-5, 3.09 ERA) for the Cardinals, and A.J. Burnett (7-3, 1.99) for the Pirates.
In the top of the second inning, perhaps the most controversial call during the night occurred. With the score still 0-0, Mark Reynolds stepped up to the plate. He swung and missed for strike three, however, the umpire instead ruled it a foul tip. Replay clearly had showed he swung and missed. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle wanted to challenge the call, but balls and strikes cannot be challenged under MLB rules.
After arguing with the umpires, Hurdle and catcher Francisco Cerveilli were both ejected from the game.
And the very next pitch thrown to Reynolds…led to a home run.
Suddenly, the Cardinals had themselves a 1-0 lead.
They added onto their 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning. It started with back to back singles by Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong. After a strikeout by All-Star Jhonny Peralta, Jason Heyward got hit by a pitch, loading the bases for All-Star catcher Yadier Molina. Molina hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Carpenter, making it 2-0 Cardinals.
The 2-0 lead became 3-0 two innings later in the top of the fifth. Carpenter led off by getting hit by a pitch, and Wong singled. Carpenter then advanced to third after a fly out by Peralta. Heyward reached base on an error by Pedro Alvarez that scored Carpenter, giving the Cardinals their third run.
But Pittsburgh got their first run by an unlikely person during the bottom of the fifth inning. With two outs, Lackey pitched to Burnett, who hit his fourth career home run, and his first since July 24th, 2005. The solo shot put the Pirates on the board, as they trailed the Cardinals 3-1.
Both starting pitchers continued to pitch well into the seventh inning, which proved to be the final inning for both. Lackey’s final line of the evening: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 Ks.
Kevin Siegrist entered the game to pitch in relief of Lackey. And while he pitched well in the bottom of the seventh inning, it was the following inning where the Pirates made their comeback. After McCutcheon walked, and Starling Marte struck out, Jung Ho Kang singled, scoring McCutcheon to make it 3-2 Cardinals. Kang advanced to second on the throw during the prior play.
Alvarez singled, scoring Kang, tying up the game at 3-3.
Afterwards, Seth Maness entered the game in relief of Siegrist.
The ninth inning was a scoreless inning for both teams, and the game advanced to extra innings. During the inning Reynolds, with one out, hit his second home run of the night, giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead. But Chris Stewart of the Pirates matched that in the bottom of the tenth, singling home Kang to make it 4-4.
It remained a tie game until the top of the 14th inning. Carpenter led off the inning with a walk, later stole second, and then reached third on a throwing error by Stewart. After a groundout by Tony Cruz, Peralta singled home Carpenter to make it 5-4 Cardinals.
Nick Greenwood entered to pitch for the Cardinals in the bottom of the 14th inning. Neil Walker led off the inning with a single, and McCutcheon then hit a two-run home run in walk off fashion to win the game for the Pirates, as the crowd at PNC Park that stayed through the whole game went crazy.
With the loss, the lead for St. Louis in the National League Central heading into the final game before the All-Star break is 3.5 games. The Pirates improve to 52-35, as the Cardinals fall to 56-32.
Tim Cooney will get the start for St. Louis on Sunday night.
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)