The Pittsburgh Pirates had a chance to play spoiler for the St. Louis Cardinals’ playoff hopes — they’d be eliminated with a loss and a San Francisco Giants win — but, despite a 3-0 lead before a Cardinal even stepped to the plate, Pittsburgh lost Saturday’s game 4-3 at Busch Stadium.
This defeat puts the Pirates at 78-82 on the season.
Michael Wacha started for the Cardinals and pitched all of one inning. He threw 29 pitches and allowed the three runs on two hits.
Those runs came when Adam Frazier led off the game with a single and Sean Rodriguez added a one out walk. Jung Ho Kang then stepped up and snapped an 0-for-10 skid at the plate, hitting a 1-1 change-up to left center field for a home run, his 21st of the season. Kang now is hitting .304 against the Cardinals this season with six home runs and 14 RBI.
On the mound for Pittsburgh was Chad Kuhl, who very nearly allowed a run in the first inning. Aledmys Diaz doubled off the rookie right-hander, and the play was reviewed and upheld. Yadier Molina singled to place two runners in scoring position, but both were left on base.
Kuhl found himself in another jam in the second inning when Jedd Gyorko and Randal Grichuk each recorded one-out singles, only to be left on base when pinch-hitter Matt Adams popped out to Kang and Carpenter grounded out.
In the fifth inning, both Carpenter and Molina singled but were once again stranded.
The young Pirates pitcher opened the sixth inning by allowing a single to Peralta and a double to Brandon Moss. After 80 pitches, manager Clint Hurdle determined he’d seen enough and went to the left-handed Antonio Bastardo.
Bastardo momentarily halted the Cardinals’ rally with a strike out, but a wild pitch following a walk to Grichuk brought in Moss. Juan Nicasio then replaced Bastardo and pinch-hitter Matt Holliday singled home the Cardinals’ second run of the inning.
When Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly to plate Grichuk, the Cardinals had successfully come back to tie the game.
Felipe Rivero (1-6) was called upon to pitch the eighth inning and quickly recorded the first two outs. Then Gyorko stepped to the plate. As the two battled, Rivero threw a 2-2 slider that home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez ruled ball three. The pitch location, however, was on the lower end of the strike zone.
— Pirates Strike Zone (@PiratesUmp) October 1, 2016
Three pitches later, Gyorko blasted his 30th home run of the season over the right field fence to give the Cardinals a lead for the first time all afternoon.
The Pirates did have one final chance to take the lead once and for all when, against Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh, Pittsburgh had Alen Hanson on third base and Jacob Stallings on second base following a steal. But Pedro Florimon came up and battled for eight pitches before harmlessly flying out to left field to end the game.
Both the Cardinals and Giants won Saturday, giving the latter a one-game lead for the final National League playoff spot. The New York Mets clinched a playoff spot with their 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies and will host the NL Wild Card game.
With the Cardinals needing a win and a Giants loss, St. Louis will send Adam Wainwright (13-9, 4.67 ERA) to face Pittsburgh’s Ryan Vogelsong (3-7, 5.00 ERA). Vogelsong is 3-7 with a 6.02 ERA in 23 career appearances (12 starts) against the Cardinals.
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