Cardinals’ bats go cold, fall to Pirates 9-3 in series opener
ST. LOUIS — Carlos Martinez got some extra rest between starts to rest a tight back. It didn’t help.
Pitching for the first time in eight days, Martinez allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 9-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
Martinez’s ERA rose to 3.04, the first time since May it went over 3.00. The Cardinals were also looking to reduce the 23-year-old right-hander’s workload that had reached 159 2/3 innings.
"We know giving him extra rest anytime we can is the right thing to do," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "If the results don’t look right in the back end, so be it. That’s what we have to do to keep these guys healthy and hopefully strong."
The Pirates ended a four-game losing streak and cut the Cardinals’ lead in the NL Central to 5 1/2 games. It was only the Cardinals’ fourth loss in their past 17 games against Pittsburgh at Busch Stadium.
Martinez threw his fastball 99 mph in the first inning but his sinker showed so much movement that he had trouble commanding the pitch.
"Sometimes feeling too good can be just as problematic as not feeling good at all," Matheny said.
Martinez threw 36 pitches in the first inning when he gave up three consecutive singles, walked two and allowed the Pirates to take a 2-0 lead. Pirates leadoff hitter Gregory Polanco worked a nine-pitch walk that started Martinez’s trouble.
Martinez said he felt stronger but because he could not locate his sinker, he used his four-seam fastball more. The Pirates, known as a strong fastball-hitting team, took advantage, though two of their first-inning hits resulted in broken bats.
"We weren’t swinging at his pitches," said Andrew McCutchen, who had two hits and scored three runs after sitting out Thursday night. "When we wait on our pitch and are ready to hit it, good things happen."
Left-hander J.A. Happ, acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline, shut down the Cardinals with seven scoreless innings. Happ gave up three singles and allowed only one batter to reach second base. He retired 15 straight batters in one stretch, matched his season high with eight strikeouts and walked none. Happ (4-1) lowered his ERA with the Pirates to 1.57.
"Happ was doing whatever he wanted," Matheny said. "He was on. That’s all there really was to it."
Martinez gave up a two-run, two-out double to Starling Marte in the fifth inning and finished his night with 100 pitches. Marte had three hits and three RBIs.
The Pirates added four runs in the ninth on five hits off Carlos Villanueva and finished with 17 hits, their most against the Cardinals since June 29, 2012.
Rookie Stephen Piscotty drove in the Cardinals’ first run with an eighth-inning double. Piscotty had two hits and extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
The Cardinals scored twice in the ninth and had two runners on when Tommy Pham grounded out to end the game on a 12-pitch at-bat.
Pirates: RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow) threw a simulated game before batting practice. "Another step forward," Hurdle said. Burnett, who last pitched July 30, is hoping to return before the end of the regular season.
Cardinals: CF Jon Jay (left wrist) was activated from the disabled list after missing the past 57 games. He entered in the sixth and went 0 for 2.
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton (8-6, 4.22) is 2-10 with a 5.58 ERA in 16 meetings against the Cardinals.
Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia (7-4, 2.03) will make his first start against the Pirates in three years. He gave up four earned runs at San Francisco last Sunday, the first time he allowed that many this season.