ST. LOUIS -- A dominant six-inning performance by Gerrit Cole, assisted by six two-out runs, led the Pirates to a 7-3 victory over the Cardinals on Saturday night and their first series victory at Busch Stadium since July 2016. They entered the series having lost seven in a row in St. Louis.
Cole gave up five hits over six innings and allowed one run, Matt Carpenter's first leadoff homer of the season, to earn his third consecutive win.
"You've just got to keep doing your job," Cole said. "You're going to make bad pitches. You're going to make good pitches. You're going to get hit on good pitches. You're going to get hit on bad pitches. You're going to get away with them. It's just part of the game. I've just got to keep moving. There's always another pitch."
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The right-hander struck out five and has now allowed just one run in each of his last three starts, posting a 1.35 ERA during that stretch to end a four-start slump in which he logged a 10.71 ERA.
"It seems like he's getting back into form," Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "It's nice to get him a lead, too, where he can do what he wants to do and not feel pressure. … The last few starts, he's been dominant."
Lance Lynn, on the other hand, didn't make it through six innings for the sixth consecutive start. In his 5 2/3 innings, the right-hander gave up six hits and seven runs, including homers to Mercer and Josh Harrison. Lynn struck out three in the game, tying a season low, and has now allowed seven runs in back-to-back games.
"If you look at the last two starts, that's two in a row that you'd like back," Lynn said. "I have to make sure I end it at that. You're going to go through a rut or some times where you don't do what you want to do during the season. Right now, I'm in that."
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The Pirates are now five games under .500 on the year, but Saturday's win pulled them within four games of the National League Central-leading Brewers.
"We're just doing a really good job of controlling what we can control," Cole said. "We're doing a good job of trying to get better, not worrying about anything else or where we're at or where we're not."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mighty Mercer: With the game tied and two outs in the fourth inning, Andrew McCutchen singled to right field, one of his two hits. Mercer then slammed a 375-foot homer, according to Statcast™, down the left-field line to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead. The home run was the first of two allowed by Lynn, who now has given up a career-high 18. His previous career high came in 2012, when he gave up 16 in 176 innings. In his last 35 games, Mercer has raised his batting average by 72 points (.203 to .275) and his OPS by 187 points (.586 to .773). Mercer said the power surge isn't intentional -- he hasn't changed anything -- but it has been noticeable.
"It's barely going over the wall. That's all that matters," Mercer said. "It really doesn't matter how far you hit it. As long as it goes over the fence, it doesn't matter."
Loading the bases: Things truly unraveled for the Cardinals in the sixth inning. With two outs and a run already on the board, the Cardinals intentionally walked Chris Stewart. Lynn followed by walking Cole to load the bases. John Brebbia replaced Lynn and promptly hit both Adam Frazier and Harrison with pitches, pushing across two more runs. Harrison leads the Major Leagues with 16 hit-by-pitches.
"There's only been a few this year that haven't hurt," Harrison said. "What I like to say is it probably would have killed a common man." More >
"Spray command at times kind of got me into a couple binds. Fortunately we were able to make pitches when we had to. [Stewart] was great at getting me back on track, helping me out with my delivery a little bit. … But we battled. Offense played a great game. Defense was sharp." -- Cole, on his outing
"I think we were all more so surprised with how things came out early, and maybe we just set that bar really high for him. But overall, I think he's still way ahead of what we anticipated he was going to be able to do this year. If he's feeling anything, he hasn't shown it. It just looks like he goes out there and has a real nice idea of what he's trying to do." -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, on Lynn
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cardinals' average exit velocity against Cole on Saturday night was 79.1 mph, according to Statcast™, 7.8 mph lower than the league-average exit velocity this season. The Cards hit four balls harder than 100 mph off Cole -- two groundouts by William Fowler, a Jedd Gyorko single and Carpenter's home run.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the ninth inning, Paul DeJong hit a double to left field, but the Pirates challenged the safe call at second base, which was overturned. The Cards scored two runs later in the inning.
"Either you're 100 percent [certain you make it], or you don't go," Matheny said. "He tried to make something out of nothing right there. By the time he got to the dugout, he was already apologizing to everybody, telling them he made a mistake."
Pirates:Chad Kuhl (2-6, 5.46 ERA) will try to pitch deeper into the game when he starts the Pirates' series finale against the Cardinals at 8:05 p.m. ET on Sunday. Kuhl has not worked more than five innings since his last start at Busch Stadium on April 18. He has pitched better lately, allowing eight runs in 20 innings over his last four starts, and he'll look to lead the Bucs to a sweep.
Cardinals:Mike Leake (5-6, 3.03 ERA) will take the mound for the series finale at Busch Stadium at 7:05 p.m. CT. The right-hander is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, but he ranks seventh in the NL in ERA and fifth with a 1.08 WHIP. He has won nine of his last 11 decisions vs. the Pirates.
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