After a seven-run top half of the first inning that saw St. Louis Cardinals starter Lance Lynn exit the game after only two outs were recorded, the Pittsburgh Pirates held off a comeback attempt from the Redbirds on Thursday, winning 10-5. The victory was the Pirates’ first in St. Louis this season, and it ended an eight-game winless streak at Busch Stadium dating back to 2014.
Neil Walker collected hits from both sides of the plate in the first inning, which is something a Pirate hasn’t done since 1962, per Elias (via Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Francisco Liriano and Gregory Polanco all contributed to the immediate outburst, but perhaps no contribution was as emphatic as Pedro Alvarez’s first-pitch-of-the-at-bat home run to center field, which traveled an estimated 433 feet, per the Pirates’ official Twitter feed.
Alvarez was 3-for-4 Thursday, and he was 6-for-12 over the three-game set, but he was also at the heart of the defensive mishaps that contributed to the Pirates dropping the first two games of the series. He was not credited with an error after he snagged a groundball and then proceeded to drop it en route back to first base, but the team did accumulate three errors over the course of the series. The 28-year-old leads all major league first basemen with 16 errors.
Thursday’s win keeps the Pirates six games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central and 1.5 games ahead of the surging Chicago Cubs in the race for the top wild-card spot. The Cubs have won seven in a row.
With the pitching staff slowly regressing and the defense sputtering, the Pirates face a stiff test against the New York Mets this weekend.
Entering Friday’s matchup, the Mets are riding a four-game win streak and are fresh off of a sweep of the Colorado Rockies. In the month of August, the Mets are 10-2.
With A.J. Burnett on the disabled list and Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano having pitched in St. Louis, the Pirates will face a tall task. They will send J.A. Happ (4-7, 4.78) to the hill Friday against veteran Bartolo Colon (10-11, 4.76), while Saturday’s showdown pits Charlie Morton (7-4, 4.48) against Jonathon Niese (7-9, 3.46). The series finale Sunday showcases Jeff Locke (6-7, 4.43) and Matt Harvey (11-7, 2.61).
The Pirates swept the Mets in May at PNC Park, outscoring them 21-4 in the process. But as STATS LLC (via CBSSports.com) notes, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson is looking forward to changing that: “Looking forward to it. Hopefully we can even that out.”
The Mets have won seven straight home games heading into Friday, while the Pirates are 12-4 against the Amazin’s since 2013.