Pitching matchup could dictate Pirates-Cardinals winner

It has been said that in baseball, momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates provided more proof of that theory Friday night. After scoring five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for an emotional 10-8 victory in the series opener on Thursday evening, St. Louis couldn’t crack the code against Jameson Taillon and lost 4-0 in the second game of the four-game set.

So who has the advantage Saturday when the teams get together for the third game? If the past is any guide, maybe the team that got shut out Friday night.

The Cardinals (30-25) will send Luke Weaver (3-5, 4.63 ERA) to the mound opposite Chad Kuhl (4-3, 3.94). While Weaver has been up and down this year, his career numbers against Pittsburgh (30-27) are 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in four starts, which is slightly better than Kuhl’s against St. Louis (1-2, 4.03, six starts).

But Kuhl’s stuff is just as good as Taillon, who breezed through eight shutout innings Friday night to garner his first win since April 8.

“I think he’s put himself in competitive situations,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Taillon to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think he’s continuing to improve and grow. Sometimes it’s just a few pitches that can spin an outing. Sometimes it’s one pitch, and the result of that one pitch, that can spin an outing.

“But that’s where you create separation, from elite to average to below average, your ability to do that. He has probably not had much room for error. When there has been error, he’s paid for it.”

The same could be said for Weaver’s outing on Monday in Milwaukee, where he absorbed an 8-3 loss but could have had a different fate were it not for one pitch. Opposite number Brent Suter slashed a pitch down the first base line that Jose Martinez couldn’t corral.

The two-run double put the Cardinals and Weaver in a 4-0 hole after four innings. Instead of getting to pitch another inning or two, Weaver was lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth.

“Got the ground ball I wanted,” Weaver said to mlb.com. “It just didn’t go our way out there.”

More than a few things have gone against St. Louis, yet it made it through the first third of the season on a 90-win pace despite a staggering array of injuries. The latest happened Thursday when Alex Reyes, considered one of the brightest prospects in baseball despite undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring, hit the 10-day disabled list after suffering a right lat strain in his first start Wednesday in Milwaukee.

The good news is reinforcements might be on the way by Tuesday. Ace right-hander Carlos Martinez came through a rehab start Thursday night at Double-A Springfield fine. If catcher Yadier Molina can negotiate two games at Springfield this weekend, he could form the battery with Martinez for Tuesday night’s series opener against Miami.

Molina has been out since taking a foul ball off his groin on May 5.

“That was the worst pain in my life,” he told mlb.com.