After scary moment, Cards on verge of title
PITTSBURGH -- In a game that reflected a National League Central race they are now one big step closer to winning, the St. Louis Cardinals snapped a scoreless tie on a ninth-inning error Monday night and went on to down the Pirates, 3-0, at PNC Park to pull within a win of the division title as the Bucs fell four games back.
Jon Jay's ninth-inning single was misplayed into a run-scoring error by right fielder Gregory Polanco -- after the Bucs had misfired on threat after threat, winding up with 16 runners left on base. Mark Reynolds added a two-run homer later in the inning, and Trevor Rosenthal set a franchise record with his 48th save to put the exclamation point on a remarkable triumph by the Cardinals.
"I don't know if there is a game that would define it more than this one all season," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of his team's resiliency. "We had our backs against the wall every single inning. A lot of it is self-induced. Big plays all the way through. I can't even begin to unpack the whole thing, there was so much that happened. Just an unbelievable win."
"I can take getting beat, but I can't take losing. Tonight, we lost. We gave them that game," said Andrew McCutchen about the Bucs, who saw their NL Wild Card lead cut to 3 1/2 after the Cubs beat the Royals, 1-0, in 11 innings. "We didn't cash in at all today. I think it is a fluke. It's kind of like you throw your hands up and say, 'Man, that's kind of crazy.' I don't get it. Show up tomorrow and get the job done. That's what we've got to do."
The game was interrupted by an outfield collision in the bottom of the seventh between St. Louis left fielder Stephen Piscotty and center fielder Peter Bourjos. Bourjos caught Josh Harrison's drive to left-center at full speed, and his left knee hit Piscotty's head. Piscotty left the field prone on a cart after several minutes of care, and he responded to the crowd's supportive ovation by waving an upraised hand. The Cardinals announced that he had a head contusion and was taken to a hospital for further tests.
"I don't feel like we won the game because of everything that happened with Stephen," Bourjos said. "The ball was just hit between us, and we both tried to make a play on it. The situation in the game, I think we both thought if the ball fell it might be the outcome of the game."
Starters Lance Lynn of the Cards and J.A. Happ of the Bucs fought to a scoreless draw in contrasting styles. While Happ allowed one baserunner -- on a Kolten Wong single in the third -- in six innings, Lynn walked four and gave up four hits in five innings, but he stranded eight baserunners.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Piscotty carted off: With Matt Holliday still unable to play a whole game, the Cardinals opened the bottom of the seventh by inserting Bourjos to play center and shuffling their other outfielders. Piscotty moved to left. On the first play of the inning, Bourjos and Piscotty collided, knocking Piscotty out. The game was delayed 16 minutes before Piscotty was taken to a local hospital for further exams. The Cardinals announced after the game that scans of Piscotty's face, head and neck came back negative for fractures or other significant injury. He was to remain in the hospital overnight to be monitored.
"The stadium, in general, hit a real lull," Matt Carpenter said. "You could sense that it was a bad place to be. Once we got in the dugout and guys were asking around and we got good news, and then it was relayed even later on that all the tests came back negative, we were able to move past it. It was not a fun few minutes." More >
Coming up empty: The Pirates couldn't do anything with major opportunities throughout the game, stranding the bases loaded on four separate occasions -- in the second, third, sixth and seventh innings. More >
Heyward helps out: Jason Heyward kept the game scoreless in the second with his team-leading ninth assist of the season. Eight days after throwing out a runner at home in a game against the Cubs, Heyward, playing center field on Monday, did so again. His throw to beat Starling Marte completed an inning-ending double play that helped Lynn out of a bases-loaded mess. Then in the sixth, Heyward made a diving catch for the second out with two runners aboard.
"It's just a situation where you want to be ready for what's going to happen before the play," Heyward said of his throw home. "All you can do is get in a good position, get behind it and let the ball go and hope for the best."
'Taking' a run off the board: Bucs second baseman Neil Walker kept the game scoreless by smothering Heyward's smash up the middle with a man on second and two outs in the seventh, preventing the ball from getting through to the outfield. Heyward's infield single left runners at the corners, then Jhonny Peralta struck out to end the inning.
"Mathematically, they're not out of it, but it doesn't look great. I'm putting myself in their shoes. You're coming in with the expectation, or at least the hope, that if we sweep this series, we're right back in it. Then to lose the first one, it kind of takes the wind out of your sails. I'm sure they're going to be able to rally and come back and fight us tough the next two days, but if they had won tonight, all of a sudden it puts pressure on us. I think it's definitely a momentum shift." -- Carpenter, on the Pirates
"A loss is a loss. But this one will get magnified because of how we lost, and when we lost." -- Walker
"I've been asked a lot whether we're related. Guess everyone now knows we can't be." -- Pirates' African-American rookie Keon Broxton, who pinch-ran in the eighth inning with St. Louis reliever Jonathan Broxton, who is white, on the mound -- the only two players named Broxton in MLB history
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
In his last nine starts, the left-handed Happ has gone 6-1 with two no-decisions and an ERA of 1.53. In his last nine starts, popular Cy Young Award candidate southpaw Clayton Kershaw has gone 6-1 with two no-decisions and an ERA of 1.64.
Rosenthal notched his record-setting save one day after blowing his third save of the year. Two of Rosenthal's three blown saves this season had come against Pittsburgh. More >
Cardinals: Michael Wacha will make what is expected to be his final regular-season start on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. CT against the Pirates. Wacha is looking to become the first Cardinals starter age 24 or younger to win 18 games since Joe Magrane did so in 1989. He is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in six career games (five starts) against Pittsburgh.
Pirates: Charlie Morton takes the PNC Park mound at 7:05 p.m. ET in a tough second-game matchup. Morton has eight quality starts among his 11 starts at home, where overall he is 6-3 with a 3.49 ERA.
Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.