Friday night, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated their National League Central rival Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 in 10 innings after a walk-off single by Matt Adams. Then Saturday afternoon, they won 2-1 in 11 innings after a walk-off sacrifice fly by Matt Carpenter. Heading into Sunday afternoon’s match-up, they looked to sweep the Pirates and keep their win-steak alive and well
And in another walk-off thriller…this one even longer…the Cardinals win streak remained alive and well.
The Cardinals defeated the Pirates 3-2 in a 14-inning battle that led to the teams running out of players to use.
Two young starting pitchers faced off in the game: for the Cardinals, it was Michael Wacha, who entered with a record of 4-0 and an ERA of 2.42, while for the Pirates, Vance Worley, who entered with a record of 2-2, and an ERA of 4.50, got the start.
For the beginning innings of the game, both teams were tied at 0-0. Despite the Cardinals hitting better than yesterday against Francisco Liriano, they still were not able to score a run early on. As for the Pirates offense, even the speed of Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte would not be able to provide a spark, as Wacha would pitch like he has all season long…at a top of the league level.
Heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, and the score still at 0-0, Carpenter, the hero yesterday, stepped up to the plate, and launched a solo home run over the head of the center-fielder McCutchen (who would lose his glove at first trying to rob the home run), to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
As the game went on, that seemed to be all the offense St. Louis would need.
Wacha would exit the game in the sixth inning with two outs. His final line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K. When Worley left for the Pirates, his final line was: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K. Randy Choate, who also has performed exceptionally well lately as a “lefty specialist”, would get Gregory Polanco out for the final out in the sixth inning.
Carpenter then left shortly thereafter due to feeling lightheaded.
Choate wasn’t the only reliever who did a good job Sunday afternoon. Matt Belisle and Mitch Harris also pitched strong relief appearances.
But in the ninth inning, still holding the 1-0 lead, Trevor Rosenthal entered the game to try and get the save. The first pitch he threw to the first batter he faced, Jung-Ho Kang, was launched over the left-field bullpen for his first career home run.
And once again (for the third straight time), the game was tied heading into extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, Harris relieved Rosenthal, and shut the Pirates down. Rob Scahill would pitch in relief for Pittsburgh and would follow the strong inning Harris just pitch, and shut the Cardinals down as the game headed to the 11th inning.
Harris continued to pitch well against the Pirates, as he allowed only a single to Sean Rodriguez. As for Scahill, he was caught into a situation in the bottom of the 11th. With the bases loaded and two outs, Tony Cruz, the last position player available for the Cardinals, stepped up to bat. After a hard-fought at-bat by Cruz, Scahill would get him to pop up to end the inning.
Sam Tuivailala entered to pitch for Harris in the top of the 12th inning, and started off well, getting the first two batters out. But the third man he faced…Pedro Álvarez, broke the tie with a solo shot, giving Pittsburgh the 2-1 lead.
For the Pirates, Radhames Liz pitched to try and end the game.
But the St. Louis Cardinals would not go away. First, Molina singled to center field. Then, Pete Kozma grounded into a fielder’s choice, forcing Molina out at second. Kolten Wong singled to center, and Kozma went to third. This followed with a walk to Jon Jay. Up next was Peter Bourjos with one out, and he reached on an infield single to third, tying the game at 2-2.
Matt Holliday and Adams both would get out, however, to end the inning, but not the game.
After a scoreless 13th inning, Miguel Socolovich, whose contract was recently purchased by the Cardinals, pitched the top of the 14th inning, and pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
Liz remained in the game for the Pirates, and would do a good job at first, by striking out Kozma.
Up next, though, was Wong, who hammered a shot (with a confident bat-flip to boot), 439-feet to end the game, and the Cardinals the 3-2 victory, leaving Pittsburgh wondering to themselves what went wrong again. Wong had also walked off last year against the Pirates with a home run at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis not only won their sixth straight game, but for the first time in franchise history, they sweep a three-game series all in extra innings. Socolovich picked up his first career win, while Liz picked up the loss.
At 18-6 the Cardinals still have the best record in Major League Baseball.
Tomorrow night in the first game of a series against the Cubs, Carlos Martinez will get the start.
(AP Photo/Bill Boyce)