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Dependable Williams has rough outing vs. Cards

Right-hander struggling with long ball in May; Marte returns with a homer
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Over the course of a season, pitchers are going to have those days. They don't have their best stuff. Their command isn't there. One of those days came Saturday for Trevor Williams as the right-hander gave up four earned runs on seven hits over four innings in the Pirates' 4-1 loss to the Cardinals at PNC Park.

"I think I just had too much plate today with all my pitches," Williams said. "We were going for the edges and stuff was leaking out over the plate. … It was one of those days where my stuff had to be on and, unfortunately, it wasn't."

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PITTSBURGH -- Over the course of a season, pitchers are going to have those days. They don't have their best stuff. Their command isn't there. One of those days came Saturday for Trevor Williams as the right-hander gave up four earned runs on seven hits over four innings in the Pirates' 4-1 loss to the Cardinals at PNC Park.

"I think I just had too much plate today with all my pitches," Williams said. "We were going for the edges and stuff was leaking out over the plate. … It was one of those days where my stuff had to be on and, unfortunately, it wasn't."

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At the same time, Williams' start on Saturday fit into a larger trend. After ending the first month of the season with a 2.29 ERA, Williams has allowed 15 earned runs over his past five starts. His 4.88 ERA in May has inflated his season ERA more than a full run, to 3.43.

Video: STL@PIT: Hurdle on Trevor Williams' early struggles

Much of his early season success was due to his ability to keep the ball in the park, as he allowed only one home run in April. On Saturday, he gave up a leadoff home run to Matt Carpenter -- the sixth homer he's given up this month -- on his second pitch of the game.

"Really, at the end of the day, it's only one run," Williams said. "It's unfortunate that it's the first hitter of the game, but after that you just have to settle in and keep them at one."

Center fielder Starling Marte -- making his first start since being activated from the disabled list -- hit a home run off Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty to tie the game in the bottom of the first inning. Marte's shot was one of just four hits off Flaherty, however, as he finished the day with four strikeouts and two walks over six innings of work.

Video: STL@PIT: Pirates K's Flaherty to strand 2 runners

Flaherty threw 20 sliders at right-handed batters, and attacked left-handers with a heavy dose of two-seam fastballs to mix up his velocity and run the ball away from the hitters.

"Tough combination for us to barrel up today," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

While Flaherty kept the Pirates off-balance all game, the Cardinals managed to get all the offense they needed to beat Williams. With two outs and a runner on second base in the top of the third inning, Jose Martinez laced a single to center field to score Yairo Munoz and retake the lead for St. Louis.

Meadows sticks with Bucs as Marte returns | Kingham ready to start if Nova goes on DL

Williams hit Dexter Fowler in the top of the fourth inning to load the bases with one out. Francisco Pena plated a run with a sacrifice fly, followed by an RBI single from Munoz to open up a three-run lead for the Cardinals.

With the team down four runs and Williams scheduled to face the Cardinals again on Thursday, Hurdle made the decision to pull his starter despite him having only thrown 65 pitches.

"He'll bounce back fine," Hurdle said. "This is just part of a Major League season."

SOUND SMART
Edgar Santana continued his brilliance with a perfect ninth inning on Saturday. He has now made 12 straight scoreless appearances this season and has allowed runs in only four of his 22 outings.

Video: STL@PIT: Marte launches a solo homer into the bullpen

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In his first at-bat since coming off the DL with a strained right oblique, Marte launched a solo home run to center field. According to Statcast™, Marte's shot left his bat at 108.1 mph and went an estimated 447 feet -- the longest home run by the Pirates this season.

"It reminded me of his first swing in Houston, his first Major League game," Hurdle said. "Of course, this was the second pitch he saw. … Bam. With some length to it. I think that he showed that he's recovered."

UP NEXT
Right-hander Jameson Taillon is tabbed to start in the series finale against the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park. Taillon will look to rebound after allowing six earned runs on eight hits against the Reds on Tuesday. Righty Miles Mikolas will start for St. Louis at 1:35 p.m. ET.

Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Starling Marte, Trevor Williams