Walk-off homer by Cardinals sinks Pirates for 2nd night in a row

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 11:24 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri threw 17 pitches in the ninth inning Tuesday. Of those, 15 were fastballs.

It turned out to be one fastball too many. Kolten Wong homered on a full-count pitch with two outs, lifting the St. Louis Cardinals over the Pirates, 5-4.

“He saw my fastball too many times,” Frieri said.

It was the second game in a row the Pirates lost to the Cardinals on a walk-off homer.

The Pirates had runners on first and second with one out in the top ninth but failed to cash in. Trevor Rosenthal (1-4) got Gregory Polanco to fly out softly to center, then struck out Starling Marte.

Jhonny Peralta started the bottom of inning against Frieri (1-1) with a groundout. Oscar Taveras struck out looking.

Frieri got ahead against Wong by firing a pair of 94 mph fastballs for strikes. A changeup in the dirt evened the count 2-2. After a sinker missed, Frieri came back with a 95 mph four-seamer.

“I knew he was going to try to put a good swing on the ball,” Frieri said. “I didn't want to walk him and put the winning run on base. I was trying to keep the ball down, but I missed. It was a really good at-bat for him. He got the pitch he was looking for.”

Wong jacked it 420 feet over the right-field wall.

In four outings since being traded to the Pirates, Frieri has yielded six runs on nine hits in three innings.

“I'm going through a lot of crazy things right now,” Frieri said. “But my arm feels good. I've got to keep working.”

The Pirates overcame an early deficit and went up 4-2 on a pair of two-run homers by Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen. However, right-hander Vance Worley was unable to hold the lead.

Worley worked five innings and allowed four runs on nine hits. He struck out three.

“He was up in the zone more than in all his previous outings,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “And he was not as sharp within the strike zone. The cutters and sliders were inconsistent.”

Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez began the year in the bullpen and still leads the National League with five blown saves. He moved into the rotation after injuries knocked out Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly and Jaime Garcia.

“He's been pitching well, gaining confidence with every outing,” Hurdle said. “Before, we'd get a one-inning look at him. Now we get an extended look. He's a different pitcher now. He's learning how to pitch. More pitches are coming into play, rather than just letting (the fastball) eat out there and spinning the ball on occasion.”

Martinez has a fastball that touches 100 mph, the kind of juice that let him whiff McCutchen in the first inning with a runner on third and one out.

The Pirates didn't score in that inning and also missed chances in the second and third. Trailing 2-0 in the fourth, Alvarez stepped to the plate with Ike Davis at first base.

Martinez got ahead 0-2 with a pair of fastballs, then spun a curveball. Alvarez whacked it 412 feet to center field for a game-tying homer. It was Alvarez's 100th career home run.

Polanco led off the fifth with a single. With one out, Martinez faced McCutchen for the third time. Martinez came at him first pitch with his best stuff, a 98 mph four-seamer.

McCutchen blasted a 382-foot, opposite-field homer to put the Pirates up 4-2.

Worley wasn't able to hold the lead long. In the bottom of the fifth, the Cardinals used three straight hits, including Matt Holliday's two-run double, to tie it at 4.

“There were only a couple of pitches that hurt me,” Worley said. “The hits weren't anything where I was saying, ‘Oh, I really missed my spots.' The RBI doubles (by Holliday and Wong) were good pitches for them to hit, and they took advantage of it.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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