Following an off day after taking two out of three from the Washington Nationals, the first place St. Louis Cardinals faced off against their National League Central rivals… the Pittsburgh Pirates, who entered 6.5 games behind the Cardinals.
And in the first game of the series, the Cardinals fell to the Pirates 9-3, as the offense sputtered all night long.
For the evening’s game, the pitching matchup featured Carlos Martinez (13-6, 2.91) and J.A. Happ (7-7, 4.10).
Pittsburgh scored early in the game to kick things off. The first inning began with a walk to Gregory Polanco. Later, three straight singles by Andrew McCutcheon, Jung Ho Kang (which scored Polanco) and Starling Marte (which scored McCutcheon) led to the Pirates scoring their first two runs of the evening.
Happ, meanwhile, was in complete control on the mound, as the Cardinals had no answer to a pitcher that realistically has not had that great of a season. Through the first six innings of the ballgame, Happ only allowed a mere two hits by Cardinal batters, and no runs.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh increased their 2-0 lead while Martinez was still on the mound in the top of the fifth inning. With Josh Harrison and McCutcheon on base, Pedro Alvarez hit a deep double that scored both baserunners to give the Pirates a 4-0 lead. At the end of the night, in what was another rough start, the final line for Martinez was: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks.
One notable moment for the Cardinals occurred in the top of the sixth inning when Jon Jay, after multiple stints on the disabled list, made his return to the major league roster. He received a rousing ovation from the Busch Stadium crowd both when he came out to the field, and stepped up to the plate.
Heading into the top of the eighth inning, the Pirates held a 4-0 lead over the Cardinals. Francisco Cervelli singled to score Sean Rodriguez to make it 5-0. St. Louis finally got on the board in the bottom of the eighth when Stephen Piscotty doubled to left, which scored Mark Reynolds. But in the top of the ninth, Pittsburgh scored four more runs to make it a 9-1 game. A Cody Stanley single in the bottom half of the ninth scored Brandon Moss and Pete Kozma, but Pittsburgh took game one of the series by a score of 9-3.
The two teams are separated by 5.5 games heading into game two on Saturday afternoon, in which Jaime Garcia will get the start on the mound for St. Louis.
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)