Pirates' bats silenced by Cardinals' Miller
ST. LOUIS — The Pirates opened a five-game road trip Friday in sour, familiar fashion.
One slip-up by starting pitcher Gerrit Cole was magnified when his teammates wasted several scoring chances. The St. Louis Cardinals did just enough to escape with a 1-0 victory.
Losers of four in a row, the Pirates sunk to six games under .500 and 81⁄2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. The Pirates are one game ahead of the last-place Chicago Cubs.
The Pirates played with a short-handed bullpen, as closer Jason Grilli likely is headed to the disabled list with a strained left oblique.
Catcher Russell Martin left the game in the sixth inning with what the team initially said was tightness in his left hamstring. After the game, manager Clint Hurdle revealed Martin was battling a sore hamstring earlier in the week — Martin did not play Wednesday or Thursday — but indicated a different injury might have been the culprit Friday.
“I don't think (the hamstring) is it, and it'd be inappropriate for me to say until we get the medical explanation,” Hurdle said. “The hamstring has been a little bit of an issue in the past, but I'm not so sure that would be accurate to say right now.”
Martin will be re-evaluated by the trainers Saturday.
“Russ has been eating it up for a while now,” said Cole (2-2), who gave up one run on six hits in seven innings.
The Cardinals got their lone run in the first. Matt Carpenter led off with a bunt single that third baseman Pedro Alvarez kicked into foul territory. Carpenter went to second on a grounder and scored on Matt Holliday's double.
Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller (2-2) beat the Pirates for the first time in six career starts.
Over his first five outings vs. the Pirates, Miller went 0-5 with a 5.93 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP. He served up nine home runs in 271⁄3 innings, a big reason the Pirates had a brawny 1.063 on-base plus slugging percentage against him.
What is it about the Pirates that bedevils Miller?
Hurdle likened it to the way he struggled in his playing days against left-hander Shane Rawley. In the majors, Hurdle went 1 for 11, including five strikeouts, against Rawley. He couldn't hit him in the minors, either.
“It was brutal,” Hurdle said. “And, after a while, it became a thing.”
Miller blanked the Pirates on three hits and four walks and struck out four. He survived a bloated pitch count — 97 pitches in 52⁄3 innings — and allowed only one runner to reach third base.
The Pirates' best scoring chance came in the eighth inning, long after Miller left. They loaded the bases with one out against right-hander Carlos Martinez.
Alvarez struck out looking at an 87 mph curveball. Chris Stewart, who replaced Martin, went down on a checked swing.
After setting down the Pirates in order on 15 pitches in the first inning, Miller was less efficient in the second.
Alvarez walked on four pitches. Martin struck out on six pitches. Ike Davis walked on eight pitches. There were two runners on base with one out and Miller's pitch count was climbing.
Travis Snider pounced on the first pitch, a 94 mph fastball, and grounded hard to short to start an inning-ending double play.
Miller needed 22 pitches to get through the third inning. It ended just like the second.
With one out, Cole ended a seven-pitch at-bat by dropping a single into center field. Jose Tabata singled. Neil Walker battled for nine pitches and walked to load the bases.
Andrew McCutchen pounced on the first pitch, a 93 mph fastball, and hit a rocket to short to start an inning-ending double play.
Instant replay saved the Pirates from falling behind 2-0 in the third.
With one out and Jon Jay at first base, Holliday bounced a single into right field. Jay slid into third base and was ruled safe by umpire Ted Barrett.
The Pirates challenged the call and the replay official ruled Jay out. Matt Adams followed with what would have been an RBI single if replay hadn't been used. But instead of a run, the Cardinals had runners on first and second with two outs. Yadier Molina grounded out to end the inning.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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