The lethargic Cardinals on Tuesday somehow managed to pull out a win against the Pittsburgh Pirates thanks to a gift from the Bucco's left fielder in the ninth inning.
A casual play on a can of corn fly ball led Starlin Marte to drop a ball that should have been the second out in the bottom of the ninth. Fortunately for the Redbirds, the player who struck the ball in question -- Daniel Descalso -- hustled all the way to second base before Marte could gather up the ball and throw it back to the infield.
The win came despite a number of failures throughout the game for the Cardinals with runners in scoring position and a number of strategic blunders that left the Birds without any help off the bench. Most glaringly, Matt Carpenter doubled to lead off the 10th. Carlos Beltran -- the Redbirds' top hitter who last week drew criticism for bunting with the tying runs on base -- obviously went to the plate with the intention to hit a ground ball to second to move Carpenter up 90 feet.
It was a nice plan under normal circumstances. But Matheny pinch ran for Matt Holliday earlier in the game and had the pitcher batting in the clean-up hole in the batting order. So when Allen Craig was intentionally walked to put runners at first and third with one out, relief pitcher Seth Maness had to bat with no one to pinch hit for him and he excruciatingly grounded into a double play.
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Despite their sloppy play, the Cardinals put themselves in excellent position to get things back on the right track. The win pulled St. Louis to within two games of the Pirates even though they managed to lose four of five games to Pittsburgh a week and a half ago as part of a 3-8 road trip before coming home to get manhandled by the Cubs. To be this close is a gift.
Meanwhile, the Pirates have suddenly lost four games in a row. It is up to the Cardinals to exploit this situation and sap Pittsburgh's confidence by extending the Pirates losing streak.
If the Redbirds could win on Wednesday they'd pull to within one game of the Bucs -- who would be in the midst of a five-game losing streak at that point -- would have to start feeling the pressure, wouldn't they?