Third baseman Pedro Alvarez tags out St. Louis runner Matt Adams, right, as he attempted to stretch a double into a triple in the first inning Wednesday in St. Louis. Andrew McCutchen threw him out, but not before two runs scored.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals spared the sellout crowd of 43,941 the drama of the previous two nights on Wednesday evening at Busch Stadium. There would be no walk-off home run, though Kolten Wong homered for the second night in a row. What the sellout crowd did see was a third consecutive Pirates loss that widened the gap between them and the Cardinals in the division.
A short outing by starter Brandon Cumpton put the Pirates behind early in a 5-2 loss at Busch Stadium. Matt Adams had three hits, improving to 6 for 12 in the series, and drove in two runs. Matt Carpenter, Oscar Taveras and Matt Holliday, the top three batters in the order, all had two hits.
Neil Walker homered and doubled, and the Pirates finally got a hit with a runner in scoring position, but that wasn’t enough.
Cumpton (3-3) put 13 of the 21 batters he faced on base and pitched through traffic for nearly every plate appearance during his 3 1/3 innings. He allowed four runs and nine hits while also walking three.
“I was just falling behind and not executing pitches well at all,” Cumpton said.
Carpenter blooped a single to left to start the Cardinals’ half of the first. Holliday walked. Adams drove a double into the gap in left-center field, scoring two runs.
“He wasn’t sharp,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We were behind in counts, the fastball was up more than down and we weren’t living on the edges with the fastball as he normally does.”
Cumpton allowed Cardinals to reach second and third base in the second but escaped the inning without allowing a run. He had no such luck in the third. After fouling off five consecutive pitches, Holliday singled on the 11th pitch of the at-bat. Holliday ran on a pitch to Adams, who singled, and the Cardinals had men on first and third.
Jhonny Peralta doubled, scoring a run, but Cumpton stopped the bleeding there. Tony Cruz pinch-hit for Yadier Molina, who left the game because of a sprained right thumb sustained while sliding into third in the second inning. He grounded to third, but Pedro Alvarez threw home and Adams was caught in a rundown. Allen Craig struck out to end the inning.
Walking pitcher Lance Lynn on five pitches began Cumpton’s downfall in the fourth. Carpenter bunted for a single and Taveras reached on an infield single to load the bases. Holliday blooped an RBI hit, bringing Adams to the plate.
“I can’t walk the pitcher right there,” Cumpton said. “I walked three guys and two of them scored. Looking back at it, if I didn’t walk those guys, they don’t score, we’re in the ballgame.”
Hurdle replaced Cumpton with Ernesto Frieri, who gave up the walk-off homer to Wong on Tuesday night and had a 7.41 ERA this season with the Pirates and Los Angeles Angels. Frieri got two outs on two pitches and the Pirates escaped with only one run allowed.
“After last night I just felt compelled to get him up, get him in there and see what he could give us,” Hurdle said. “I thought he responded really well for us.”
Wong homered off Justin Wilson in the seventh. Wilson has allowed a homer in his past two appearances.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn pitched 6 2/3 innings Wednesday night and allowed two runs and six hits. Trevor Rosenthal saved his 27th game.
Walker homered into the Cardinals’ bullpen in the second. Walker has 12 home runs this season and extended his hitting streak to 11 games, during which time he is hitting .317.
“I’ve seen the at-bats get better,” Hurdle said. “We talked during the Phillies series. I told him, ‘Don’t change anything. It’s coming, you’re about to get hot.’ He felt the same way, that the at-bats were cleaning up. I think we’re seeing the Neil that we saw before he was hurt.”
Walker doubled with one out in the fourth. He went to third when Alvarez flied out to center and scored on Jordy Mercer’s infield single, cutting the Cardinals’ lead to 3-2.
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