Cardinals’ go-ahead grand slam sends Pirates to 8th straight loss
ST. LOUIS — In the big leagues primarily as a defensive replacement, Cardinals rookie outfielder Lane Thomas pounced with a chance to flex his hitting muscles.
Thomas ripped a go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning, Paul Goldschmidt and Dexter Fowler also homered, and St. Louis beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 11-9, on Sunday.
The Cardinals rallied from an 8-4 deficit to sweep the three-game series and move into second place in the NL Central, two games behind the Chicago Cubs.
Josh Bell had two homers and four RBIs for the Pirates, who have lost eight in a row and 24 of their past 28. Pablo Reyes added a solo shot in the ninth.
“At the end of the day, the game’s designed to break your heart,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “And the game beats you up every once in a while.”
Thomas, playing his 21st game, drove in five runs. His first career slam came off Kyle Crick (3-7) and put the Cardinals ahead 9-8. He also had an RBI triple in the fourth.
“I knew he was going to throw a fastball, and I just tried to get ready for it,” Thomas said.
Crick got two strikes on Thomas but could not put him away.
“I was going to throw a heater down,” Crick said. “I think it ended up inside about thigh high and he put a pretty good swing on it.”
Thomas, who has been recalled from the minors four times this season, started for only the second time. Most of his other 19 appearances came as a late game defensive replacement.
“My main focus is to make sure my body feels good and that I’m ready when the opportunity comes up,” Thomas said. “My role has been the defensive part of it, and I really focus on that.”
St. Louis manager Mike Shildt was impressed with Thomas’ all-around effort. Thomas hosed Adam Frazier at the plate with a one-hop throw from center in the first inning.
“It speaks to the kind of player that he needs to be,” Shildt said. “He’s going to need to be the guy that can do things like that.”
Thomas’ five RBI performance ties him for second among NL rookies this season behind Will Smith of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who drove in six against Washington on July 17.
John Gant (8-0) tossed a scoreless seventh to pick up the win. Andrew Miller recorded up his fourth save in six tries.
Goldschmidt hit his team-high 26th homer in the first inning and started the five-run seventh-inning rally with a leadoff single. Marcell Ozuna followed with a single, and Crick hit back-to-back batters to set the stage for Thomas’ third homer of the season.
Fowler hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Geoff Hartlieb.
“A game that encapsulates this team’s toughness,” Shildt said. “We have the kind of players that you win with.”
Bell hit two-run homers in the first and fifth innings. It was the fifth multihomer game of his career, all this season. The homers, his 28th and 29th, were his first since July 5. He has an NL-leading 68 extra-base hits.
Pirates starter Steven Brault gave up four earned runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked three. Brault had a seven-game hitting streak halted with an 0-for-2 performance. He came into the game on an 8-for-10 run at the plate.
Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas surrendered five earned runs and seven hits over five innings. He gave up both home runs to Bell.