Pirates whip Cardinals, 9-2, in series opener
To the large crowd that jammed PNC Park on Monday, the opening act of this extended showdown between the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals lived up to its hype.
Powered by Pedro Alvarez's three-run homer, the Pirates built a four-run lead before making their first out. Left-hander Francisco Liriano did the rest, strangling the Cardinals for seven innings to secure a 9-2 victory.
“We answered the bell,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “A good game for us, all across the board.”
This five-game series, the first one at PNC Park in 12 years, will impact the NL Central standings and wild-card chase. The Pirates are within one-half game of the first-place Cardinals; the clubs have held the top two spots in the division since late June.
More than anything else, this series can be a measuring stick. Information gathered now could be invaluable in October.
Whose offense is more productive? Whose rotation is mightier? Whose bullpen is more reliable? Who can show more savvy — and more poise?
“Our styles of baseball are pretty similar,” second baseman Neil Walker said before the game. “We know where we are as a team. We know we can play with St. Louis. We know we can play with anybody. It's just a matter of finding ways to get it done.”
Liriano (11-4) scattered four hits, gave up one run and struck out eight. He has a 1.61 ERA in seven starts at PNC Park this year.
“I just tried to do my job and not do too much,” Liriano said. “Every game counts for us.”
Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook (7-5) has never had much luck on the North Shore. Over his first nine career starts at PNC Park, the righty went 0-5 with a 5.86 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP.
On April 16, Westbrook gave up four runs in the first inning against the Pirates. That game was rained out — all the stats were erased — and will be made up as part of Tuesday's doubleheader.
The rainout only postponed the damage to Westbrook's ERA. The Pirates again jumped on him for four runs in the first inning, which ignited the crowd of 32,084.
Jose Tabata drew a leadoff walk. Walker was nicked on the shin by a pitch. Andrew McCutchen rolled an RBI single into center field.
Westbrook's next pitch was an 89 mph sinker, and Pedro Alvarez swung like he knew it was coming. Right fielder Carlos Beltran didn't flinch; he turned and watched as the ball arced into the seats above the Clemente Wall.
“I missed my pitch to Alvarez by a foot,” Westbrook said. “Not really something I want to do, especially to him, and it hurts.”
Westbrook threw 100 pitches but lasted only five innings. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny went to his bullpen much earlier than he would've liked — which could cause trouble, with a doubleheader looming Tuesday.
“We chase wins,” Matheny said before the game. “If we have an opportunity to win tonight, we're going to chase it and deal with tomorrow as it comes.”
Tony Cruz pinch-hit for Westbrook leading off the sixth and tripled. He scored on Matt Carpenter's soft single to center field.
It was not nearly enough. Liriano avoided more damage by striking out Beltran and getting Matt Holliday to ground into a double play.
The Pirates added five runs in the seventh. Alex Presley, called up from Triple-A, got an RBI single. Clint Barmes lined a two-run double. Starling Marte had a pinch-hit, run-scoring single.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Coping with Kids: Cool products for family road trips
- Former Steelers linebacker Harrison retires
- Outbound 376 reopened after man on exit sign caused closure
- 90,000 people could hit the North Shore for games, ribs
- Penn State edges Central Florida on last-second field goal
- Steelers claim former Cowboys cornerback Webb
- Veteran Keisel settles into role with Steelers
- Pirates notebook: Lambo recalled to bolster bench
- Retail theft suspect takes off, leaves baby at Rostraver Township Walmart
- Fayette DA’s office will remain on death penalty case
- Secret judicial ruling blocks release of sexually explicit emails