The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates traveled to face the St. Louis Cardinals, J.A. Happ’s turn was skipped in the rotation. This was partially because of past performance against the Cardinals, but also recent struggles at the time.
Friday night, Happ struck out eight batters in seven scoreless innings as the Pirates won by a 9-3 score Friday night.
Happ [4-1] was 1-8 with a 6.79 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cardinals coming into the start. His appearance tonight marked the first time he threw 100 pitches or more since July 8 against the Detroit Tigers. Happ also threw seven scoreless innings for the first time since June 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Additionally, Happ reached seven innings for the first time since July 20.
A two-run first started with two of the first three Pirates reaching base. Jung Ho Kang then singled in Gregory Polanco to score the first run of the night. Kang, who is hitting 47 points lower with his batting average on the road, came into the contest hitting .333 in his last 21 road contests.
Starling Marte next stepped to the plate and singled in Andrew McCutchen putting the second run on the board.
In the fifth inning, the Pirates put up another two runs. With Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen on base, Marte came through again hitting a first pitch curveball to score both runs.
The fifth inning was the last for Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez [13-7]. Martinez was starting in place of Lance Lynn due to an ankle injury.
Happ pitched into the seventh inning and got two outs before allowing a single to Brandon Moss. Prior to this hit, Happ has retired 15 consecutive Cardinals batters.
Happ was over 100 pitches at this point and pitching coach Ray Searage slowly went out to talk to his pitcher giving him time to catch his breath but also to allow a reliever to start throwing. Instead of showing signs of fatigue, Happ ended his night with a strikeout of Yadier Molina.
With Miguel Socolovich on in relief, Sean Rodriguez recorded a one-out double, his eighth of the season. Francisco Cervelli batted him in with a single.
Antonio Bastardo pitched the eighth with the Pirates up five runs however allowed two base runners. Despite there being two outs, manager Clint Hurdle elected to go with Tony Watson. Watson however allowed an RBI double to Stephen Piscotty which allowed the Cardinals to score for the first time in the game.
It was a four-run ninth for the Pirates as Rodriguez singled in a run, Jordy Mercer singled to bring a second run home and pinch-hitter Travis Snider recorded his 10th double of the season bringing the final two runs home.
Jared Hughes pitched the ninth and pinch-hitter Cody Stanley singled to allow two runners to score and place Mark Reynolds on third. Pinch-hitter Tommy Pham grounded out and the throw from Mercer just beat him to the first base bag, ending the game.
The Pirates are now the third time to 80 wins and put up 17 hits in the victory which comes after the team was swept by the Milwaukee Brewers.
This series continues Saturday afternoon with Charlie Morton [8-6 4.22 ERA] facing Jaime Garcia [7-4 2.03 ERA]. Morton is 2-10 with a 5.58 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cardinals.
Photo credit: Jeff Roberson/AP Photo