Sloppy start at home
Defensive miscues, bullpen costly for Pirates
By Will Graves
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Down four on the road late against a team feeding off the adrenaline of its home opener, the St. Louis Cardinals waited patiently for the buzz to wear off.
When it did, they pounced.
Kolten Wong hit a two-run homer to provide St. Louis with a much-needed spark, and the Cardinals took advantage of a bumpy outing by Pittsburgh’s bullpen to slip past the Pirates 6-5 in 11 innings on Monday.
The Cardinals rallied to tie it in the eighth and again in the ninth then took their first and only lead in the 11th. Paul DeJong singled off Steven Brault (0-1) with two outs, moved to third after a hit batter and a walk and sprinted home from third when Pirates reliever Nick Kingham and catcher Francisco Cervelli got crossed up. Kingham’s pitch squirted past Cervelli and went all the way to the backstop, allowing DeJong to score easily.
“You knew you had to just keep your head down and keep going,” said Wong, who has three home runs through five games after hitting nine in 127 games in 2018. “This was either going to be a game where they kept going or we were going to get them back. We were confident in ourselves. We knew they weren’t too far ahead.”
Jordan Hicks (1-1) worked two scoreless innings for St. Louis. John Gant picked up the save despite issuing a one-out walk to finish a sloppy 4-hour, 53-minute marathon that featured 16 pitchers, 16 walks, four hit batters, three errors and two home plate umpires. Crew chief Jerry Layne left in the seventh after taking a ball off the mask and was replaced by Vic Carapazza.
“That’s the definition of gutty right there, across the board,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Literally, contributions from everyone. The bullpen was outstanding. … The offense scratched and clawed. What can you say about that kind of game? It was crazy.”
So crazy that St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina made his first career appearance at third base in his 1,875th game in the majors. Molina made the cameo at third in the 11th when Matt Wieters — the last position player available for the Cardinals — came in to pinch hit in the 11th and stayed on to catch in the bottom of the inning. Molina did not have a defensive chance.
“Yadi had this big smile on his face,” Shildt said. “He was happy about it. He loves catching, but he wanted to play some third, I guess.”
Colin Moran went 2 for 3 with three RBIs, including a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth that put the Pirates up 5-4. Josh Bell drove in two runs for Pittsburgh, and Chris Archer struck out eight and allowed just two hits in five shutout innings in his 2019 debut.
Archer exited with a 4-0 lead only to watch the bullpen give it away as the Pirates dropped their home opener for the first time since 2014. Six of Pittsburgh’s seven relievers allowed at least one baserunner. Richard Rodriguez allowed his second home run in as many appearances when Wong took him deep in the seventh. Closer Felipe Vazquez stranded the go-ahead run at second base to end the eighth but then gave up Jose Martinez’s game-tying double with one out in the eighth.
A pair of late errors — one by Moran at third base in the seventh, another by shortstop Erik Gonzalez in the ninth– gave St. Louis life.
“Unfortunately with the free (bases) we gave them, too many opportunities late to extend innings, that’s what cost us the game,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright, hoping to bounce back after an injury-plagued 2018, struggled with his command. The 37-year-old walked four — three in the first inning alone — and gave up four runs on four hits in four innings while throwing just 37 of his 73 pitches for strikes.
“I didn’t have command of anything, really,” Wainwright said. “My fastball command was terrible. My cutter was sloppy. My curveball was loopy and the split, I only threw a few of them. You can’t walk guys in the big leagues. No excuses coming from my end. I’ve got to be better.”
Cardinals: RF Dexter Fowler left in the bottom of the seventh shortly after getting hit in the left foot with a pitch. Schidt said X-rays on the foot were negative and Fowler is day-to-day. … IF Jedd Gyorko should be ready to return from a strained right calf in time for Thursday’s home opener against San Diego.
Cardinals: Miles Mikolas (0-1, 9.00 ERA) will make his second start of the season when the teams meet on Wednesday. The 30-year-old allowed five runs in five innings in a loss to Milwaukee on opening day.
Pirates: Jameson Taillon (0-1, 6.00) is 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA in eight career starts against St. Louis.