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Bucs lose 3-game series to St. Louis

By Alan Saunders

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Carlos Martinez pitched eight marvelous innings, Harrison Bader hit an early three-run homer and the St. Louis Cardinals blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0 on Sunday for a three-game sweep.

St. Louis has won seven straight against the Pirates and is 20-6 versus Pittsburgh since the start of the 2019 season. The sweep was the second in three series for the Cardinals, who have won eight of 10 overall.

Bader’s home run came with one out in the second inning. Paul DeJong walked, Tyler O’Neill singled and, after Andrew Knizner’s fielder’s choice, Bader drilled a 1-1 slider left up in the zone by rookie Wil Crowe (0-1).

It was Bader’s first home run of the season in his third game since returning from a forearm injury.

Martinez (2-4) was effective and efficient, allowing five hits and two walks. He struck out just three, but leaned on his cutter and got 10 groundouts and three double plays.

“This is my best stuff,” Martinez said. “When I want to throw hard, I’ve got the velocity. I’m feeling great.”

Alex Reyes retired the side in order in the ninth for his seventh save.

The Pirates went 0 for 8 with runners on base. No Pittsburgh player had more than one hit, and the Pirates did not get more than one hit in any inning.

Making his second major league start, Crowe dealt with traffic in every inning, partially thanks to four walks and a hit batter. He needed 97 pitches to get through five.

Crowe made the most of his first big league opportunity to hit, sending a single down the third-base line and drawing a walk in two trips to the plate.

GOING DEEPER

Martinez has gone at least five innings in every start this season and he worked into the eighth for the second consecutive appearance, hitting the 100-pitch mark for the first time this year. He retired the last eight batters he faced.

“He’s been able to get quicker outs, been on the ground, getting double plays when there’s a little traffic,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He’s been efficient with all of his pitches.”

SCARY MOMENT

Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings was grazed in the face by a 97 mph fastball from Martinez in the fourth inning but stayed in the game.

“It was scary,” Stallings said. “It’s the first time it ever happened to me.”

Stallings said the pitch hit him in the nose, lip and cheek, but he avoided full contact. Martinez apologized to Stallings afterward.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: RHP Jordan Hicks will undergo scans on his right forearm when the team returns to St. Louis on Monday, and Shildt said “there is optimism” that Hicks might be able to avoid the injured list.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (0-3, 4.08 ERA) is scheduled to start against the New York Mets to begin a seven-game homestand Monday. Wainwright was placed on the COVID-19 injured list Thursday due to contact tracing, but is eligible to be removed Monday. Shildt said Wainwright has repeatedly tested negative.

Pirates: LHP Tyler Anderson (2-2, 3.38) opens a three-game series at San Diego on Monday, the Pirates’ first trip to the West Coast this season. The teams split a four-game series in Pittsburgh in April.

Saturday’s game

Jack Flaherty pitched six solid innings to keep his record perfect and Paul DeJong hit a three-run homer in the first inning to send the Cardinals over the Pirates 12-5 on Saturday night.

Flaherty (5-0) struck out nine while winning his fifth straight start. He gave up three runs on six hits and two walks and improved to 7-1 in 10 career starts against the Pirates.

DeJong’s drive off Trevor Cahill (1-3) capped a four-run first. The first run of the inning scored when Tommy Edman hit a leadoff double and scored on Paul Goldschmidt’s one-out single.

“It was big, especially with two guys on,” said DeJong, who was hitting .165 coming into the game. “It really added some momentum to our team and gave Jack some space to go out there for the first inning.”

The Cardinals have scored 61 runs in the six games Flaherty has started this season.

“It’s crazy but when you get a lead like that you’ve got to make it count,” Flaherty said. “There have been times where I haven’t done a good job of attacking when I get those leads but I felt like I did a better job of it today. And give our offense credit because they kept adding on.”

St. Louis won for the seventh time in nine games. The Cardinals have also won six games in a row at Pittsburgh and 14 of their last 16 at PNC Park.

Edman, Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado each had three of the Cardinals’ 15 hits. Arenado drove in three runs with a two-run, bloop double in the seventh inning that put St. Louis ahead 7-3 and an RBI triple in a five-run ninth.

Rookie Justin Williams capped the ninth-inning outburst with a pinch-hit, two-run homer.

Colin Moran had three hits and two RBIs for Pittsburgh, which lost its third straight game.

Cahill lasted 5• innings, allowing five runs and seven hits with five strikeouts and three walks.

“He settled down and started to execute after (DeJong’s home run) and pitched really well,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “He left a ball out over the plate in the first inning and caught a bad break because it went out of the park.”

The Pirates closed to 5-3 in the fourth on back-to-back RBI singles by Moran and Gregory Polanco. Flaherty then retired the next 10 batters.

“He got better as he went,” Shildt said. “There were some balls early in the game that got through the infield for hits but he did a good job of shutting things down as the game went on.”

The Pirates again got within two runs in the eighth at 7-5 when Bryan Reynolds doubled and scored on a single by Moran.

The Cardinals then put the game away with the five-run ninth against Sean Poppen.

Getting close

Pirates GM Ben Cherington said his team is “getting close” to the 85% vaccination rate of players, coaches and others with Tier 1 access required by MLB to allow a team to ease some COVID-19 protocols.

The Cardinals have already reached that threshold.

Health report

Pirates: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes (left wrist strain) can throw and run but the rookie is not ready to begin swinging a bat. It was unknown whether Hayes would join the team on its road trip which begins in San Diego on Monday night and continues through to Chicago against the Cubs before returning home for a series with the Reds starting May 10.

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