Cardinals complete sweep of Pirates with 1-0 win
ST. LOUIS — The battle was on with a warning-shot fastball that sizzled behind Andrew McCutchen's back. It ended with a line-shot single that might have knocked the Pirates out of the NL Central race.
The St. Louis Cardinals outmuscled the Pirates, 1-0, on a walk-off single by Peter Bourjos. The Pirates were swept in the three-game series by a total of four runs.
“It was a great series,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, whose club tumbled five games behind the first-place Cardinals with 23 games to play. “It was a nip-and-tuck, push-and-shove tug-of-war every time we played.”
Perhaps there was a little too much shoving by the Cardinals.
Hurdle took offense to a pitch by Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller that nearly hit McCutchen.
“From my perspective, it was an ambush,” Hurdle said. “It was a cheap shot.”
The trouble began in the fourth inning, when Pirates righty Edinson Volquez plunked sluggers Matt Holliday and Matt Adams back to back. It was the 16th hit by pitch for Holliday, which is tied for most in the majors.
“I was 0-2 and wasting pitches,” Volquez said. “That one just got away from me, and I hit him. I wasn't trying to hit him. Why would I? There's no reason.”
With two outs and nobody on in the sixth, Miller fired a high, first-pitch fastball that flew behind McCutchen's head.
“It's two teams competing,” Miller said later. “Against a tough lineup, it's as simple as that. Just trying to ...”
Miller paused, choosing his words carefully.
“Just two teams competing, like I said.”
Not hiding his disgust, McCutchen took a long walk to the on-deck circle and back to the box. He took a huge cut at a 2-0 pitch but flied out to left field.
“He missed me, so no harm done,” McCutchen said. “They had their shot, and they missed me. And I just missed a homer. Almost. Until next time.”
Umpire Ron Kulpa warned both benches after the near-miss to McCutchen. Coincidentally, Kulpa also was behind the plate Aug. 2 in Arizona, when McCutchen was nailed by Diamondbacks reliever Randall Delgado.
“I told (Kulpa), ‘Why does it have to be you again behind the plate?' ” McCutchen said. “He kind of laughed it off.”
Volquez tossed 6 1⁄3 scoreless innings, allowed three hits and two walks and struck out five. He was removed after throwing 86 pitches.
“That's my game. I wanted to stay in there and have a chance to win,” Volquez said. “I was ready to keep pitching.”
The Pirates put their leadoff batter on base five times, but only one of those runners reached third base.
In the eighth inning, the Pirates had Gregory Polanco at second with two outs. McCutchen fouled off three full-count pitches from reliever Carlos Martinez, then went down swinging at a slider.
“Good battle,” McCutchen said. “He made a really good pitch on the last one.”
As he walked off the mound, Martinez slapped his glove, pumped his fist and pounded his chest.
“He can celebrate all he wants,” McCutchen said. “I don't mind it. It's part of the game. Just don't get mad when one of us hits a home run, stares at it, tosses our bat and takes our time running around the bases.”
Closer Mark Melancon, who had not pitched since Saturday, retired the Cardinals on just eight pitches in the eighth inning. Hurdle did not hesitate to send Melancon back out for the ninth.
“That's exactly how we planned it out,” Hurdle said.
Melancon got two outs quickly in the ninth. Yadier Molina battled through an eight-pitch at-bat and walked on a borderline pitch.
“It was ball four,” Melancon said. “He put a good at-bat together. I thought I'd get him to swing, but he laid off those outside pitches.”
Jon Jay looped a single to left field. Bourjos lined a one-strike single up the middle, scoring Molina.
“Walks are never good,” Melancon said. “They found some holes, and that's the way the game goes.”