Cardinals rally to down Pirates in extra innings
ST. LOUIS – Nine innings wasn't enough for the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in the series opener, nor was it enough in Thursday's closer at Busch Stadium.
Both were games the Pirates could have won to sweep St. Louis. Instead, the Pirates return to Pittsburgh with losses in five of their past six games after Matt Holliday singled off Bryan Morris (5-6) in the 12th inning to give the Cardinals a 6-5 win.
The Pirates' lead over St. Louis in the NL Central, at four games heading into last weekend, is down to two.
Three of Morris' six losses this season have come in walk-off fashion. In his second inning of work, Morris walked Matt Carpenter with one out and gave up a single to Jon Jay on a 3-2 pitch before Holliday singled.
“The last pitch caught more of the plate than I wanted it to,” Morris said.
“That's about it.”
On Tuesday, the Cardinals rallied from a three-run deficit and capitalized on a ninth-inning error to spark a win in 14 innings.
On Thursday, the Pirates scored four runs in the top of the fifth off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn but lost the lead in the bottom of the inning in what would become A.J. Burnett's shortest outing of the season.
Garrett Jones singled and scored on Andrew Lambo's first major league hit, a double to center field. Clint Barmes hit his first home run since May 12 — a span of 47 games — to make it 3-0. Starling Marte tripled and scored on a sacrifice by Neil Walker to make it 4-0.
Burnett was sharp and efficient through three, giving up just a single and a double to Carpenter. But he started the fifth by yielding a single to Matt Adams, followed by a double to David Freese. Daniel Descalso lined a pitch to center field to score them, and Carpenter inched closer to the cycle with a triple to drive in another run and cut the lead to 4-3.
Jay, 5 for 9 in the series entering the game, singled to right to tie it, and Holliday extended his hitting streak to 12 games by doubling to score another and give the Cardinals the lead. Burnett would not face another batter.
“As good as it looked early, it's never easy against this group,” Burnett said. “They figured me out early.”
At 4 1⁄3 innings, it was Burnett's shortest outing since giving up 12 runs in 2 2⁄3 innings at Busch Stadium on May 2, 2012.
It was also the first time the Cardinals led the entire series, outside of the walk-off hit in the 14th inning Tuesday. It was the second start in which Burnett failed to hold a lead.
On Saturday, the Pirates led 3-0, but Burnett gave up four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning before being lifted. The Pirates lost that game, 6-4.
“There are some things we tried to identify from the last start and from this start, and we'll have a conversation and see if any of them are true and are going to play out,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I also know he's a guy that's experienced everything there is in the game, and he'll be good and ready to take the ball the next time he goes out.”
The Pirates left runners on second and third in the sixth inning and on first and second in the seventh before Russell Martin's home run tied it in the eighth. Of his 11 home runs on the season, four have come against the Cardinals.
In the two games that went to extra innings, the Pirates were 2 for 22 with runners in scoring position and left 20 men on base.
“We had a number of guys that had opportunities,” Hurdle said. “This is playoff-atmosphere baseball. You're playing against a very good ballclub, so the challenges and opportunities that come with it is just going to sharpen us for what's in front of us.”
The Pirates return home for a weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks before heading back on the road for a seven-game trip against the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. They face the Cardinals six more times in the next 12 games to wrap up the season series.