It very nearly had every element of that Pittsburgh Pirates magic from 2013.
With the way Shelby Miller was pitching, a four-run first inning looked like it decimated the Pirates early on. A hit-by-pitch and a costly error by third baseman Pedro Alvarez ignited a barrage of Cardinals singles as the carousel kept moving and nine men came to the plate. The Bucs’ starter buckled down after that, scattering three singles and a walk over the next six innings, keeping his team in the game.
Pittsburgh wasn’t able to capitalize on much – Miller, through the first three innings, only had to deal with one big jam in the third inning. After loading the bases with a hit-by-pitch and a walk, Miller got out of the jam. That walk did not come back and haunt him, but the next one did. One inning later, he walked Ike Davis and Jordy Mercer launched one deep into the Pittsburgh night out in left field, cutting the deficit in half. That’s as close the Pirates would come with Miller on the mound. The two starters traded scoreless innings until Miller was taken out in the bottom of the sixth.
The bullpens took over the game at that point, and neither one proved entirely dominant. Kevin Siegrist allowed the Cardinal lead to slip to just one in the seventh, but it was the Pirates’ Bryan Morris who gave up two vital insurance runs to St. Louis. Matt Adams would score on a single by Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay would go first to third on the play. The next run proved to be the game winner, and it was quite literally given to the Cardinals as Morris would spike a ball about four feet in front of the plate that got by Tony Sanchez and allowed Jay to cross the plate.
That run would be the most instrumental as the Pirates started their comeback in the 8th. Mercer, who had the two run homer earlier in the game, laced a double down the left field line that sent Ike Davis first to third. Davis scored on a ground out, and then the Pirates faced the reality that they would have to face the fireballing Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth.
Rosenthal wasn’t overpowering, though. Neil Walker started off and ripped a ball down the left field line that got caught under the padding and was ruled a ground-rule double. He would score three pitches later as last year’s NL MVP Andrew McCutchen lined a base hit up the middle. Alvarez would send McCutchen to third with a single of his own, back through the box, and then Rosenthal loaded the bases by walking pinch-hitter Clint Barmes. Ike Davis came to the plate and popped out in foul territory.
That brought up the offensive star of the game to that point, Jordy Mercer. Rosenthal, who had already shown he was wild in the inning, got behind on a 2-1 count. Mercer took an ill-advised swing at a 98-MPH fastball below the strike zone and dribbled it just to the left of the mound. Rosenthal saved his own skin with a 1-2-3 double play to end the game.
“Really, hit anywhere but there, and we’re still playing,” Mercer told MLB.com after the game. The Cardinals improved to .500, but are still 5 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central. The Pirates dropped to 16-21 and are now 7.5 games behind Milwaukee.