ST. LOUIS — It wasn’t exactly a long national nightmare or even a regional one. But the Pittsburgh Pirates did remove a seven-game losing streak at Busch Stadium from their shoulders on Friday night.
Their come-from-behind 4-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals had all the elements that a team requires to claim a tight victory: solid pitching, timely hitting, excellent defense and clutch work out of the bullpen.
“We felt like we were going to win sometime this weekend,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “Might as well get it done tonight. That’s just the attitude we have. Yeah, it’s good to be over for sure.”
The Pirates can now make it a winning streak under the Gateway Arch if they win game two of the weekend series between National League Central rivals on Saturday night.
Friday night’s win enabled Pittsburgh (34-40) to crawl within five games of first-place Milwaukee and jump over St. Louis (33-39) by a percentage point for third place. The overall weakness of the division has allowed both the Pirates and Cardinals to stay within a long winning streak of the top despite playing sub-.500 baseball.
Pittsburgh will go for a series win behind right-hander Gerrit Cole (5-6, 4.28), who in his last two starts has looked more like an ace and less like a guy who some feel could be moved at the trading deadline if the Pirates fall out of contention.
Cole cruised to an 8-1 win Monday night in Milwaukee, giving up three hits and a run in seven innings while walking two and whiffing five. Cole is 5-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 11 career starts against St. Louis.
He faced the Cardinals on April 19 and pitched a good game except for two pitches to Dexter Fowler that turned into solo homers. That was enough to get Cole beaten by a score of 2-1.
Fowler could be back in the St. Louis lineup on Saturday night after missing the last two games with a quad strain suffered in the 10th inning of a 7-6 win at Philadelphia. That also marked the last time the Cardinals won.
They have dropped their last two games, lowering their June record to 8-14. Five of the wins came courtesy of the Phillies, who are currently in position to select first in next June’s draft.
St. Louis will turn to Lance Lynn (5-4, 3.33) to reverse its fortunes. Lynn is trying to bounce back from a rough outing on Sunday at Baltimore, where he gave up seven runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings of an 8-5 setback.
While Lynn is 6-5 with a mediocre 4.41 ERA in 20 career appearances against Pittsburgh, his last outing against the Pirates was terrific. On April 17, Lynn worked seven shutout innings in a 2-1 win.
The Cardinals appeared to be in position to start this series with a win, but their top relievers — Trevor Rosenthal and Seung Hwan Oh — couldn’t protect a 3-2 edge. Rosenthal burped up the tying run in the eighth and Oh allowed John Jaso’s tiebreaking homer in the ninth.
It was the fifth homer that Oh has permitted this year, matching the total he allowed all of last year.
“His velocity’s there,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said of Oh. “He’s just elevating some pitches a bit.”