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Things could have been very different in Cardinals-Pirates finale

What a difference one play can make in a game.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ hopes of sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates came to an abrupt ending in the first inning Thursday night when Peter Bourjos was unable to make a catch at the centerfield wall.

Instead of there being two outs with no one on base, the Bucs had a man on third with one out. The next batter got a hit, making the score 1-0. Jung Ho Kang grounded to third base and Matt Carpenter, who appeared to look at the lead runner before hurrying his throw to first, threw the ball away to open up a seven-run opening frame.

Had Bourjos, who we constantly hear is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, made the play for the second out, Carpenter wouldn’t have cared if the lead runner advanced. His easy throw across the infield would have ended the inning and that would have been it for the Pirates scoring until the ninth inning when they scored three insurance runs.

In between it was all Cardinals.

St. Louis scored two runs in the bottom of the first, one in the sixth and two in the seventh to cut their deficit to 7-5 and had the go-ahead run at the plate with two outs when Boujous hit a foul pop out.

I’m not saying Bourjos’ ball was an easy play. But it was one the speedy outfielder should have made. The ball didn’t get over his head, he was at the wall when it landed about four feet high up the padding. Bourjos missed it because he turned the wrong way and then was not in a position to catch the ball as it hit the wall just inches from his glove -- but within his reach.

It was nice to win two of three against the Pirates. But it would have been considerably better to complete the sweep and send them back to Pittsburgh eight games back instead of six.

If there was a silver lining to the game it was that the St. Louis bats rose to the occasion and put some runs on the board.

Carpenter had two hits in four at-bats along with a walk and two runs scored. Randal Grichuk scored a pair of runs with walk and a hit. Jhonny Peralta had a pair of hits and a walk in four at-bats and Jason Heyward had two hits and a walk in three at-bats.

Tyler Lyons pitched 5 1/3 shutout innings of relief, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out two.