As losses go, the Cardinals’ 5-2 defeat to the Pirates on Tuesday night really wasn’t that bad.
At least when compared to what it would have done to the other guys.
Yes, the Cardinals were in prime position to deal the home team a devastating loss.
They had managed to tie the game at two even though Pirates starter Gerrit Cole no-hit them until two were out in the sixth. The Pirates also received some bad news when two of their key players, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, had to depart with injuries. And a second straight loss to St. Louis would have dropped them 5 1/2 games behind the second-place Cardinals.
Even Cardinals manager Mike Matheny admitted, "We would have needed to steal this one."
The Cardinals played well, too, despite their lack of success against Cole. Lance Lynn turned in another strong start, rookies Randal Grichuk and Oscar Taveras delivered clutch hits and lefty reliever Sam Freeman had an impressive showing.
The Cardinals still are in position to win the series when they start ace Adam Wainwright against Jeff Locke in the series finale Wednesday (11:35 a.m. CT, FOX Sports Midwest).
— Welcome back, Randal. Talk about being thrown into the fire. Called up earlier in the day to replace Shane Robinson (shoulder) on the roster, the Cardinals tabbed Grichuk to pinch-hit with the game on the line in the seventh inning. There were two outs and the tying run was on third when Grichuk came up against hard-throwing lefty Tony Watson. Known for being tough on lefties, Grichuk lived up to his reputation by singling to center to tie the game.
— More Lance being Lance. Ho-hum, another quality start for the big right-hander. This time, Lynn went six innings and allowed just two runs, and while he didn’t get his 15th win, he turned in his ninth quality start in his past 10 outings.
The fourth inning provided another example of how much Lynn has evolved this season. After a leadoff walk and a successfully executed hit-and-run by Russell Martin, the Pirates were poised to put up a crooked number. But Lynn did not let the inning get away, which wasn’t always the case in the past two seasons. He struck out Alvarez with a 95-mph fastball (that looked outside) and, after hitting Starling Marte, gave up an infield grounder to Clint Barmes to score a run — the Pirates’ only run of the inning. Lynn almost escaped without allowing a run, but second baseman Kolten Wong’s throw to first wasn’t quite strong enough.
— Sam Freeman. If he hasn’t become the third-most trusted member of Matheny’s bullpen, he’s closing the gap on Seth Maness, who ranks well behind Pat Neshek and Trevor Rosenthal. Freeman showed why Matheny has called on him nine times this month by working a three-up, three-down seventh after the Cardinals had tied the game in the top of the inning. Freeman’s 2.27 ERA is second to Neshek among relievers.
— Maness. His 11-game stretch of not being charged with a run allowed ended, and in a big way. Called on to pitch the eighth with the score 2-2, Maness let two Pirates on but also had two outs. But left in to face lefty pinch-hitter Ike Davis, Maness left a 2-2 changeup up and over the middle of the plate and Davis slugged it over the right-center fence for a game-deciding three-run homer.
— Hitting against Cole. The 23-year-old right-hander showed why he is as tough as any starter the Cardinals have faced all season this side of Clayton Kershaw. Cole did not allow a hit until two were out in the sixth when Wong grounded a two-strike fastball down the right-field line for a double. Cole ended up being charged with both Cardinals runs after he gave up a double to Matt Adams and a single to Jhonny Peralta before departing in the seventh. Cole struck out nine and walked only one, and though he tired in the seventh, his fastball touched 99 mph on his 100th pitch. Cole ended up throwing 108 pitches, four shy of his career high.
— Matt Holliday. No Cardinals hitter had a tougher time against Cole than the man who delivered the winning RBI for St. Louis on Monday night. Holliday’s 0 for 3 against Cole included two strikeouts, and both times he whiffed on a slider that was well outside and probably low, too. And the thing was, Holliday came in 5 for 11 against him, which included an 0 for 5 in postseason meetings. In his first at-bat after Cole departed, Holliday singled to stretch his hitting streak to eight games.