Share This Page

Pirates power past Cardinals in doubleheader sweep

| Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 8:27 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen crosses the plate next to Cardinals catcher Rob Johnson after hitting a two-run home run during the fifth inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Alex Presley drives in the winning run in front of Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz during the 11th inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett reacts after striking out the Cardinals' Allen Craig during the seventh inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle argues a wild pitch with home plate umpire Eric Cooper during the sixth inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett reacts after getting the final out of the sixth inning against the Cardinals on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen makes a sliding catch to rob the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter during the 10th inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett delivers to the plate during the first inning against the Cardinals Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker tackles Alex Presley after he drove in the winning run during the 11th inning against the Cardinals Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Russell Martin scores the winning run next to Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz during the 11th inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen robs the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran with a catch during the first inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett creams Alex Presley after he drove in the winning run in the 11th inning against the Cardinals Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates right fielder Jose Tabata scores on a wild pitch past Cardinals pitcher Tyler Lyons during the second inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen celebrates his two-run home run with Jordy Mercer during the fifth inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett creams Alex Presley after he drove in the winning run in the 11th inning against the Cardinals Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Brandon Cumpton delivers to the plate during the third inning against the Cardinals Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez hits a sacrifice fly for his first major league RBI against the Cardinals on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen celebrates his two-run home run with Jordy Mercer next to Cardinals catcher Rob Johnson during the fifth inning Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates right fielder Alex Presley sprints around the bases for a triple against the Cardinals Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez gets into second base past the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez celebrates with center fielder Andrew McCutchen after defeating the Cardinals on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at PNC Park.

These are not typical times along the North Shore.

The Pirates took both games of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Cardinals — a 2-1 victory in 11 innings in the first game and 6-0 win in the second — to take a 1 12 game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central. Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's game, the Pirates will enter August in first place for the first time since 1992.

This was not a typical July 30 for PNC Park. Hundreds of fans milled outside the home-plate rotunda prior to the game. There were long lines for tickets. Talk had not yet turned to Steelers training camp, as thousands streamed over the Clemente Bridge to experience firsthand perhaps the most important series in the ballpark's history. And 33,861 mostly stuck around for a rare twinight doubleheader.

The Pirates took both games, in part, through atypical fashion: timely hitting.

The Pirates entered the series with a major league-worst .222 average with runners in scoring position, and the Cardinals entered with an MLB-best .338. But through the first three game of the series, the clutch-hitting roles have reversed.

“It doesn't mean anything,” Hurdle said of being in first place. “There's a whole lot of baseball to be played.”

Left-handed hitting Alex Presley was called up Monday, in large part, because the Pirates were to face nine right-handed starters over their next 11 games. With two on and one out in the 11th inning of Game 1, Presley hit a sharp bouncer back at Cardinals lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist. Siegrist deflected the ball into left field, enabling Russell Martin to score and give the Pirates a 2-1 walk-off win.

Presley was mobbed by teammates, hardly looking like they were carrying the weight of the last two years' second-half collapses.

In the fifth inning of Game 2, Starling Marte led off with a triple, and Jordy Mercer plated him with a single. Andrew McCutchen followed with a two-run home run off starter Tyler Lyons, a decisive blow, to give the Pirates a three-run inning and 4-0 lead.

The Cardinals have gone just 3 for 21 with runners in scoring position in the series.

While the timely hitting was atypical and welcomed, the Pirates also leaned on their typical formula to victory: pitching and defense.

The Pirates called up Brandon Cumpton to start the second game, and Cumpton responded with seven shutout innings, allowing three hits, and doing what he does best: getting groundball outs (11) for his first major league win.

The 13 Pirates pitchers on the 25-man roster have combined for a 2.58 ERA.

While A.J. Burnett has only one win since May 4, he matched Cardinals starter Lance Lynn in the first game with by allowing one run over seven innings and striking out nine. Lynn allowed one run and three hits over six innings.

“I said it last year, and I'll say it again: I'm not here for my numbers,” Burnett said. “I'm here to do what I can to get this team to October.”

The Cardinals entered the series widely viewed as the best team in baseball. But the Pirates have several advantages, including defense and speed.

The Pirates entered with baseball's top defensive efficiency — the rate at which batted balls are turned into outs — and the Cardinals entered with the 25th-most efficient defense.

Marte and McCutchen took at least five hits away from the Cardinals.

The Cardinals struggled at times defensively. In the second inning of the second game, David Freese booted a Jose Tabata groundball for an error. Tabata advanced to third on a Josh Harrison single and scored on a passed ball by Yadier Molina, who left the game with a right-knee strain.

The Pirates also have something the Cardinals don't: a five-tool impact player. McCutchen showed off all five tools Tuesday.

He dived to rob Carlos Beltran of a run-scoring hit in the first inning Game 1 and doubled off Holliday with a strong throw to first. In the bottom of the inning, he doubled to left. In the second game, he delivered a decisive blow, his 15th homer of the season, perhaps remove lingering doubt that these are different times at PNC Park.

Related Content
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.