Hurdle hopes rain helps Bucs

PITTSBURGH – Jonathan Sanchez didn’t look like a guy ready to give the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen a needed night off after the St. Louis Cardinals touched him for two runs in the first inning on Tuesday.

Instead, Mother Nature intervened.

A massive thunderstorm hit at the end of the second inning with the Pirates leading 4-2, and the game was called after a delay of 1 hour, 24 minutes. No makeup date was immediately announced.

The deluge wiped out a promising start for Pittsburgh’s offense. However, Tuesday night’s cancellation could give the Pirates some flexibility.

Sanchez – who came in with a 12.96 ERA – allowed two runs in the first inning but retired the side in order in the second.

Matt Holliday had an RBI single for St. Louis. Garrett Jones, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez all had RBI singles for Pittsburgh. None of it will count, however, and the game will be replayed in its entirety.

The rainout allows Pittsburgh’s depleted bullpen to get a needed day of rest. The Pirates called up reliever Vin Mazzaro from Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday for some help after long relievers Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris worked a combined 6 1/3 innings in relief of McDonald.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hoped Sanchez – who made the team out of spring training as a non-roster invitee – would be able work deep enough to get to the setup guys. It hasn’t been the best start to the season for the left-hander. He was roughed up by Arizona in his previous start, allowing nine runs in 3 1/3 innings.

It looked like more of the same in the first inning Tuesday. Sanchez walked Cardinals spring training star Shane Robinson on four pitches to start the game. Carlos Beltran followed with a single two pitches later and Holliday dumped Sanchez’s next offering into center, bringing home Robinson.

Allen Craig lined out to shortstop Clint Barmes, but the typically solid Barmes made his second error in as many days when his attempt to double off Beltran at second ended up in right field.

Beltran moved to third and then scored on Yadier Molina’s grounder to first.

Pittsburgh, however, had little trouble getting to St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook. The veteran righthander has allowed zero earned runs in 15 2/3 innings this season but is 1-7 with a 5.28 ERA against the Pirates during his career.

Jose Tabata singled with one out, the first of five straight singles by the Pirates. A rare gaffe by the St. Louis defense helped. With runners on first and third and one out, Russell Martin hit a chopper back to the mound and Westbrook threw to second to try and start a double play. Second baseman Matt Carpenter was late covering and was charged with an error when the ball sailed into center as Walker scored.

Both pitchers settled down in the second before the rain starting falling.

Game notes: Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton is expected to make a start at extended spring training on Thursday. Morton is recovering from Tommy John surgery. … Before the game, the Pirates held a moment of silence for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.