Cardinals hoping to gain more ground in playoff race Tuesday against Pirates

Matt Adams’ second go-round with the St. Louis Cardinals hadn’t gotten off to a good start — until Monday night, that is.

With one swing that propelled a baseball 401 feet, Adams turned a 6-4 eighth inning deficit into a 7-6 lead. His biggest homer since a three-run blast eliminated Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers from the 2014 National League Division Series enabled St. Louis to score a crazy 8-7 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This result also impacted the Dodgers negatively, thanks to their 10-6 loss in Cincinnati. That means the Cardinals will enter Tuesday night’s matchup with the Pirates with a two-game advantage over Los Angeles for the NL’s second wild-card spot with 18 games remaining.

For that, they can thank Adams, who entered Monday night’s game batting just .156 in 46 at-bats with St. Louis. Before his big blast off Edgar Santana, Adams was 0 for 3, fanning in the fourth with men at first and third and none out.

“I was in that spot earlier on and chased some pitches,” Adams said. “I got a pitch out over the plate this time and didn’t miss it.”

Which meant the Cardinals (80-64) didn’t miss a chance to gain ground on two fronts. They also picked up a game on the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs — who lost 3-2 to Milwaukee at Wrigley Field — and are within 3 1/2 games of first place.

St. Louis will try for a series win behind its most consistent starter this year, right-hander Miles Mikolas (14-4, 3.06). He notched a 7-6 victory Wednesday night in Washington, although he was touched for 12 hits and four runs in 6 2/3 innings with a pair of strikeouts.

Mikolas has faced Pittsburgh four times this year, going 0-2 with a 3.37 earned run average. He’s hit more barrels lately than he has all year, allowing 32 hits and 10 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings over his last three starts.

Having worked 173 2/3 innings — just 14 1/3 off his professional career high set last year in Japan — Mikolas could be battling fatigue. That might be a reason why Cardinals manager Mike Shildt is using a six-man rotation during this stretch of 13 games without an off-day, giving Daniel Poncedeleon a start in Wednesday’s series finale.

The Pirates (71-72) counter with right-hander Joe Musgrove (6-8, 3.75), who continues his search for consistency. After two subpar starts against Milwaukee and St. Louis, Musgrove bounced back on September 4 to subdue Cincinnati 7-3, yielding five hits and two runs over 6 1/3 innings with no walks and eight strikeouts.

Musgrove will make his third start of the year against the Cardinals, having gone 1-1 in the first two. He opened his August 30 loss against them with 21 consecutive strikes but gave up third inning homers to Harrison Bader and pitcher John Gant to punctuate a 5-0 setback.

Pittsburgh wasted a rare power outburst Monday night. Its three homers marked the first time since August 9 that it had blasted that many in a game.