So much for the momentum of Tuesday’s thrilling 14-inning win.
Then again, as Earl Weaver said once upon a time, momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. For the Pirates that was Francisco Liriano, owner of a 12-5 record and 2.83 ERA coming into the game. And, perhaps more importantly, a lefty (who the Cardinals perpetually don’t hit well).
Granted, the Cardinals had Shelby Miller and his 11-7 record and 2.89 ERA starting for them. He was coming back from his very abbreviated two-pitch start against the Dodgers last week, but he was ready to go.
Perfect setup for a pitchers’ duel — which it was …for the first inning. Three up and three down on each side.
Then it became rather deja vu to Tuesday’s game, as the Pirates hit two home runs before there were two outs in the second inning. Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones did the honors to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead.
After that, it was a frustratingly familiar ballgame for the Cardinals that ultimately ended in a 5-1 loss and a screaming ride down after Tuesday’s high.
Matt Holliday led off the second with a single, giving him a 10-game hitting streak now. Yet it was followed up by — surprise! — a David Freese grounder to short for the first GIDP of the night. In the fourth, following a Carlos Beltran single, Holliday lined out to Jones at first — who merely had to step on the bag to catch Beltran for double play 2 of the game. (Hey, at least that one was unique!) In the seventh, after an Allen Craig walk, Holliday completed the night’s double play trifecta. The Cards now have hit into 118 double plays to lead the majors in that category, with Holliday hitting into 27 of those himself.
Yet for last night at least, taking advantage of any chances against Liriano was very tough as Jenifer Langosch writes:
Liriano followed up his one-run, seven-inning win over the Cardinals two weeks ago with the third complete game of his career. The consensus in the clubhouse afterward was that his pitches were even tougher to pick up this time around. He had an effective fastball to complement his superb slider and changeup. And he was around the plate enough — yet hardly over it — to induce regular early contact.
The Cardinals did not advance a runner to second until Carpenter doubled in the ninth. Just two outs were recorded in the outfield. Liriano struck out six, allowed four hits and needed only 94 pitches to do it all. Carpenter’s double, a wild pitch and a groundout were all that kept him from the shutout.
With the loss, the Cardinals are now back to three games behind Pittsburgh in the NL Central. And then there are the Reds. After being being 6 1/2 games back from the Central lead on Aug. 4 (when the Cards beat them 15-2) they’re now 3 1/2 back — and thus just half a game behind the Cardinals.
Of course, perspective time: plenty of season left still, and plenty of games that the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds all play against each other. In fact, the Pirates and Reds play each other six times in the final two weeks of the season — including the final three games.
And the Cardinals should have some momentum of their own today, though not from starting pitcher Lance Lynn. No, from his battery mate Yadier Molina, who is expected to be activated from the disabled list this afternoon. We all know how valuable Yadi is to the team — both on offense and behind the plate.
Today’s finale with the Pirates features Lynn taking on A.J. Burnett and begins at 12:45 p.m. And hopefully last night’s loss was just a momentary dip on the roller coaster ride of 2013.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.