Cardinals grab victory over pitcher Cole, Pirates with a late rally
ST. LOUIS — For six innings Monday, Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole held his own against a lineup he rates as one of the toughest in the National League.
That's not to say Cole had it easy against the St. Louis Cardinals. There was tension in the third inning when Matt Holliday flicked a two-run double.
In the fourth, Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn caused a stir with a deep fly ball that pushed center fielder Andrew McCutchen to the wall before dying.
“You have to be on your game when you face these guys,” Cole said. “They grind, grind, grind and then — bam! — they murder you.”
The Cardinals finally got to Cole in the seventh, scoring three runs to steal a 5-4 victory that put them in the driver's seat in the division title race.
The Cardinals (74-63) moved into sole possession of first place in the NL Central. The Pirates (71-66) remain stuck in third, three games behind St. Louis and two behind second-place Milwaukee.
With 25 games to play, the Pirates trail San Francisco, Milwaukee and Atlanta for the two NL wild-card berths. The Pirates have two games remaining against the Cardinals, three against the Brewers and four against the Braves.
“It's going to be tough all the way through September,” catcher Russell Martin said. “We know that.”
The Pirates led 3-0 after two innings and 4-2 when Cole (7-5) took the mound in the seventh. With one out, Pete Kozma singled to left. Kolten Wong drove a 1-2 fastball into the home team's bullpen — the first pinch-hit homer by the Cardinals this season.
“Kolten's a really good hitter,” Cole said, “and I threw it right in his wheelhouse.”
Jon Jay followed with a triple to the left-field corner. Right-hander John Axford replaced Cole and walked Oscar Taveras on five pitches. Holliday pulled a single into left field to score Jay with the go-ahead run.
“We got the ground ball we wanted (from Holliday),” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It just found a hole.”
Holliday has collected 12 RBIs over his past three games. He has driven in the winning run in each of the Cardinals' past four victories.
“He's probably the strongest human in the world,” Cole said. “You jam him, and he puts it on the warning track in right-center. You get him out on his front foot, and he almost rips (shortstop Jordy) Mercer's glove off with one hand on the bat. He's just tough.”
Lynn was hit hard over the first two innings, when he threw 52 total pitches and gave up five hits. But he blanked the Pirates from the third through the sixth.
“It's a little frustrating, not capitalizing on some of their mistakes,” Martin said.
In the fourth, Harrison was at second with one out when Andrew Lambo tapped an infield roller. Catcher Yadier Molina made an easy throw to first base, but Matt Adams muffed the catch and the ball ticked into right field.
“As I was running, I took a peek and saw it tip off Adams' glove,” Harrison said. “They don't make many throwing mistakes, so I took a shot.”
Backing up the play, second baseman Kozma got to the ball in a hurry. His throw beat Harrison to the plate.