Cardinals shut down new-look Pirates lineup to avoid sweep
By trading for veteran sluggers Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau in the final week of August, the Pirates figured they had found a remedy for their often sluggish offense.
Nobody told Joe Kelly. The right-hander subdued the Pirates' new-look lineup Sunday, as the St. Louis Cardinals romped to a 7-2 victory.
The Pirates won two of three games in the series and are tied with the Cardinals atop the NL Central. The two teams will clash again this weekend at Busch Stadium in St. Louis — their final three scheduled matchups of the regular season.
Over six innings, Kelly (7-3) gave up four singles, walked two and struck out five. He said his approach against the Pirates was a little different with the new faces in their lineup.
“I had to watch some video on those guys,” Kelly said. “We didn't really have much on (Morneau) because he came here yesterday. But you still just want to pitch your game. Even if his strength is hitting the fastball away, if that's my strength I'm just going to keep doing what I can do and pitch my game. But I had to take a little time to look those guys up.”
With Starling Marte still on the disabled list, manager Clint Hurdle chose Neil Walker over Jordy Mercer to bat leadoff. Walker went 1 for 4 in his debut in the top spot.
Byrd and Morneau were in the lineup together for the first time and batted fifth and sixth, respectively. They went a combined 3 for 6 with two walks.
“They have mental and physical toughness, and big-game experience,” Hurdle said. “It makes us deeper, makes us better. We've got to go play now.”
Byrd's single up the middle in the sixth inning drove in the Pirates' first run. He doubled and scored in the ninth.
“I'm glad to be part of a winning team,” Byrd said. “I want to do everything I can to help.”
A sellout crowd of 37,912 came to PNC Park wanting to witness a series sweep, but those hopes were quickly crushed. Pirates starter Kris Johnson yielded five runs in two-plus innings.
It took Johnson 20 minutes to get through the top of the first. The lefty threw 37 pitches —19 balls, 18 strikes — and allowed three runs on three hits, two walks and two wild pitches.
Allen Craig and Yadier Molina began the third with back-to-back singles. David Freese doubled to the North Side Notch, which gave the Cardinals a 5-0 lead and knocked Johnson out of the game.
“His control wasn't on point and that hurt us,” catcher John Buck said. “We didn't do ourselves any favors by falling behind in counts. Then, he tried to force a couple pitches.”
Johnson is a 28-year-old journeyman who two years ago pitched for the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association to reignite his career. In his big league debut Aug. 18, Johnson tossed six innings of relief and was the loser in a 4-2, 16-inning defeat against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“There was a little more nerves today because of the anticipation of starting,” Johnson said. “These are the kind of situations you want to be put in; I just didn't take advantage of it. I worked all my life to get here and fell short.”
Lefty Jeff Locke originally was slated to start Sunday, but he was temporarily demoted to Double-A Altoona for a breather amid a second-half skid. The Pirates called up Johnson from Triple-A Indianapolis to make the spot start in part because the Cardinals can be vulnerable against left-handers.
That the Pirates would turn to an untested rookie instead of Locke in a key game against a top NL Central foe underscores their concern about the depth of Locke's slump.
How wide is the gulf between Triple-A and the majors? This season, Johnson leads the International League with a 2.39 ERA and ranks seventh with 10 wins. In two outings with the Pirates, he is 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA.
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.
- Starkey: Steelers stopping themselves with suspensions
- Pirates turn nifty double play in 9th, edge Marlins
- Golfer’s body found in lake at Moon country club
- Steelers’ Martavis Bryant facing four-game suspension
- Volunteers restore stands at former Duquesne football field
- West Mifflin Community Day returns to airport grounds
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle mulling rotation options
- Homicide charges filed gainst Pittsburgh man in Munhall man’s death
- Animal Rescue League, miffed at Vick signing, moves gala from Heinz Field to Consol
- Mon-Yough water line upgrades will lead to more reliable service
- 1 dead in Bullskin crash