When the All-Star break arrived, the Pittsburgh Pirates were only 2.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central division. Entering Tuesday night, in which the two teams began a critical three game series, they were five games behind the Cardinals.
And after game one of the series, they were pushed back a game, as the Cardinals won 4-3 in another one run game between the two rivals.
The starting pitchers for the evening’s game featured Carlos Martinez (11-4, 2.57) for the Cardinals, and Jeff Locke (6-6, 4.31) for the Pirates.
Pittsburgh scored first during the game, when, in the first inning, Jung Ho Kang drove in Aramis Ramirez with an RBI double. Ramirez was previously hit by a pitch from Martinez.
St. Louis countered that during the bottom half of the first inning. Matt Carpenter led off with a single, followed by Kolten Wong hitting into a fielder’s choice, as the Pirates threw out Carpenter at second base. Jhonny Peralta broke an 0-15 streak when he stepped up to the plate next, hitting a single.
Jason Heyward hit into a fielder’s choice, that put the Cardinals on the board, and to tie the game 1-1.
It remained a tied game until the top of the third inning. Gregory Polanco led off the inning with a triple deep to right field. Two outs later, Ramirez hits his 143rd career RBI against the Cardinals (he’s played for the Cubs, Brewers, and Pirates), scoring Polanco to make it 2-1 Pirates.
The following inning, Pedro Alvarez hit his 16th home run, a solo shot, making it 3-1.
St. Louis struggled to produce runs throughout the first half of the game. Most notably, Locke worked out of a bases loaded, one-out jam by getting Randal Grichuk to strikeout, and Yadier Molina to pop-out. Locke allowed no runs in the inning.
But in the bottom of the fifth inning, that all changed. The inning began with Locke walking Wong and Peralta consecutively. Heyward singled to score Wong, cutting the Pirates lead to just a run. Two at-bats later, Molina hits a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 3-3.
The biggest hit, however, came during the very next at-bat. Stephen Piscotty came up to bat, and singled home Heyward, giving St. Louis a 4-3 lead over Pittsburgh.
On the mound, Martinez got into multiple jams, but aside from the three runs allowed, was sharp, striking out eight over the span of eight innings. His overall final line of the game was: 8.0 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks.
Trevor Rosenthal entered to pitch the top of the ninth inning, looking for the save to cap off the win for the Cardinals. And he sent them down in order, striking out Neil Walker, Alvarez, and Francisco Cervelli to notch his 34th save of the year.
With the win, the Cardinals improve to 72-40, while the Pirates fall to 65-45, and six games behind in the division. Martinez wins his 12th game of the season, tying him for fourth in the National League in wins.
Tomorrow night, Michael Wacha gets the start, against Gerrit Cole of the Pirates.
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)