If Friday was an indication of what will unfold in the 19 games this season between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates, expect plenty of drama.
The NL Central rivals went toe-to-toe before a decision was rendered in the 10th inning on Matt Adams’ bases-loaded single that gave the Cardinals a 2-1 victory.
With two outs in the inning, Jon Jay singled to left against Rob Scahill (0-2) and went to third on Matt Carpenter’s 14th double of the season. Scahill intentionally walked Matt Holliday, and the move backfired when Adams lashed a shot over third and into the left-field corner.
“I thought they were going to pitch to (Holliday). There were two outs,” Adams said. “But it was something they did and I was just ready to hit. It’s a good (position) to be in. That’s what you prepare for, to come up in big situations and get the big hits.”
The Cardinals (16-6) mobbed Adams between first and second as they celebrated their fourth victory in the first five games of the homestand.
“It was a great feeling, seeing (teammates) coming to grab me and throwing water or whatever they were throwing on me - Gatorade and all sorts of stuff,” Adams said. “It’s a good way to get Game 1 of the series. ... It’s a good win for the team.”
Perhaps the dearth of runs came as no surprise. The Cardinals entered the game ranked first in all of baseball with a 2.43 ERA, while Pittsburgh was second at 2.95.
The Pirates, who had just one runner through five innings, claimed a 1-0 lead in the sixth, but Cardinals starter Lance Lynn rallied with a great escape that kept the Cardinals in contention.
Francisco Cervelli led off with a single and went to third on Jordy Mercer’s double past third. Pitcher A.J. Burnett rolled a single into center to score Cervelli, with Mercer stopping at third. Gregory Polanco then walked on a full-count pitch to load the bases.
That’s when Lynn regrouped. Josh Harrison popped out to first on the 11th pitch of his at-bat, and Andrew McCutchen struck out looking at a 3-2 offering. Lynn brought the crowd of 40,912 to its feet by striking out Walker.
“When you get the bases loaded with two, three, four up - and I had already given up one (run) - and don’t give up any, I’ll take that every time,” said Lynn, who was still squeamish after getting Harrison for the first out. “When you’re facing an MVP with the next pitch, you’re just worried about making the next pitch. That’s it.”
Lynn threw a one-two-three seventh to end his outing on a high. He surrendered one run on four hits, walked one and struck out 10. It was his eighth career double-digit strikeout game.
“He’s becoming one of those special pitchers,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “You get into a position when you have to make good pitches ... We had the middle of their lineup when he got into that spot (in the sixth). That, to me, shows what kind of pitcher he is. I still don’t think this league gives enough credit to what kind of pitcher he is.”
St. Louis tied it in an extended seventh inning that included four pitching changes.
Jhonny Peralta greeted reliever Arquimedes Caminero with a sharp single to center. Caminero replaced Burnett, who allowed no runs on two hits with seven strikeouts in six innings. Burnett passed Los Angeles Dodgers Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax on the career strikeout list.
Jason Heyward walked to push Peralta to second, setting up a sacrifice situation for Yadier Molina. But Molina fouled off a bunt for the second strike, then lined out to shortstop Mercer, who roamed into short left to make the play. Mercer wheeled and fired to second, and umpire Mark Wegner called out Peralta.
The Cardinals appealed, however, and the call was reversed, keeping runners at first and second with one out. Antonio Bastardo relieved and struck out Kolten Wong on a 3-2 pitch as Peralta stole third and Heyward swiped second.
Jared Hughes was summoned from the bullpen to face pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds, who fell behind 0-2 before driving in Peralta with an infield single up the middle to make it 1-1.
Tony Watson relieved Hughes and retired Jon Jay on a roller to first baseman Sean Rodriguez, who had just entered the game in a double-switch.
Right fielder Heyward helped maintain the tie in the eighth. With one out, Rodriguez poked a hit inside the line that Heyward quickly retrieved. Rodriguez tried to stretch the hit into a double, but was thrown out when Heyward fired a strike to shortstop Peralta.
“Great throw,” Matheny said. “The guy’s a great defender. We’re seeing now why he’s got Gold Gloves on his shelf.”
Pittsburgh appealed the call, which was upheld by replay.
The Pirates were turned away in the 10th when Randy Choate (1-0) relieved Matt Belisle and struck out Polanco with runners at first and third.
Choate fell behind 2-0, rallied to 2-2 and then retired Polanco swinging at a slider.
“It’s just kind of the situations, really, that I play for,” Choate said. “Just the adrenaline, the rush, game on the line, bale out one of your other reliever. Falling behind 2-0 is defintely not what I wanted to do, but I was able to come back, get a strike and have him foul one off. Then I started a slider at his hip and kind of let it go away. Luckily, he chased it.”