The story of the day for the Pirates was the 80-game suspension of center fielder Starling Marte. The Pirates new center fielder was the story of the night. Andrew McCutchen made an immediate impact defensively in his return to center field, while showing off the range that helped him to become a perennial over the past few seasons. He was no slouch at the plate either, as he singled and doubled in four at bats to help set up one of the Pirates best rallies of the night.
McCutchen’s strong play was not enough for the Pirates though, as they only registered one hit with a runner in scoring position on the night and fell by a score of a 2-1 for the second straight night. Mercer beating out a ninth inning dribbler to first was the Pirates only hit with a runner in scoring position on the night. It did set up a great scoring opportunity for the Pirates, but Phil Gosselin’s poor at-bat was not enough for the Pirates to tie the game without another hit with men in scoring position.
Offensive woes have been the early theme in Pirates losses this season, but they do not completely overshadow the great starting pitching that the team continues to get from the front four in their rotation. A third straight quality start from the Pirates rotation, has the team in position to rip off a significant winning streak as soon as the offense is able to provide the necessary support. For a second straight night, the Pirates starter was extremely efficient, as Chad Kuhl needed only 72 pitches to get through six strong innings of work. By throwing 48 of his 72 pitches for strikes, Kuhl was able to limit the Cardinal offense to just two runs on three hits and one walk. He also struck out Randal Grichuk three different times for his three strikeouts on the night.
Kuhl left a few pitches up and most of those resulted in Cardinals hits. The Cardinals got on the board in the first inning after a leadoff triple by Dexter Fowler, on one of those few pitches that Kuhl left up in the zone. Fowler scored two batters later when Piscotty rolled a slow grounder to first and Josh Bell’s throw was late on his attempt to get Fowler at the plate. The Cardinals scored their second run in the fifth inning, after a pitch left up by Kuhl was hit into center field by Jose Martinez for a lead off single. Greg Garcia followed that with a line drive double into the gap in right center field to score Martinez, but he was thrown out at third after a good sequence of throws from McCutchen to Harrison and to Freese for the out.
The Pirates finally got on the board in the top of the sixth inning, when McCutchen followed Frazier’s lead off single, with a one out double down the left field line. Polanco grounded to first for a third straight time, but this time around it drove in a run. Freese could not tie the ball game following the Polanco RBI, and that was all of the runs that would score on the night.
The Pirates with the 2-1 loss, dropped to 6-8 on the season, while the Cardinals improved to 5-9.
Tomorrow afternoon at 1:45PM, Gerrit Cole (5.29 ERA/4.61 FIP) takes the mound for the Pirates to oppose Michael Wacha (3.00 ERA/3.49 FIP) and the Cardinals in the final game of this three-game series.