"That was a fun ninth inning," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Came in, came right at them. Got some quick outs. You see 98 [mph]. You see hard cut in the low 90s. What's there not to love about that? I think he's going to be a good fit for us. We'll try to figure out how to plug in the different pieces. But the bullpen overall did a nice job for us. It's good to have Juan with us."
Matheny said Tyler Lyons wasn't available Friday and he told Nicasio, acquired from the Phillies in a trade this week for a Minor League infielder, that he would pitch the ninth.
"He wants the ball," Matheny said. "He wants to be in there in big situations, and we're going to give them to him."
Nicasio has been busy the past two weeks, going from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and now the Cardinals, but he has quickly embraced that challenge with his new team, a group that keeps pushing for a spot in the postseason.
The reliever ranged to his right, toward third base, fielded the grounder barehanded and fired an off-balance throw toward first, where Jose Martinez scooped it for the final out of the inning.
"I really like high-leverage situations like that," Nicasio said. "That play I was able to make just kind of showcases how well I'm able to compete. ... I saw [Matt Carpenter] was kind of playing behind third base and I said it's going to be difficult for him so let me just try to step in, and I was able to complete it."
In the ninth, Nicasio retired Jordan Luplow, Elias Diaz and Jordy Mercer on just six pitches.
"He does what he does, you saw it tonight," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's aggressive on the mound. The fastball, he's going to get after it, slider, little split, changeup, very athletic on the one play as well. That's a play very few pitchers can make."
Nicasio seemed to relish his newfound opportunity with the Cardinals.
"I was brought here to compete, I was brought here to help the team win, and I'm happy that I was able to help the team do that tonight," he said.
Nate Latsch is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Louis.