Cards want to build off momentum against Pirates

June 1, 2018

What Yairo Munoz described as an incredible feeling, the Pittsburgh Pirates might term horrible.

Munoz's walkoff three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night at Busch Stadium capped an unlikely five-run rally against closer Felipe Vazquez as the St. Louis Cardinals wiped out an 8-5 deficit to take a dramatic 10-8 win.

"I was looking for a fastball and I got it," Munoz said to Fox Sports Midwest through an interpreter. "I jumped on it."

The emotional high of a win like that isn't quite enough to mask this truth: For St. Louis to win its fourth straight game against Pittsburgh on Friday night, it's probably going to need a good, long start from Miles Mikolas.

The Cardinals' bullpen has been worked hard the last two games, soaking up eight innings as starters Alex Reyes (injuries) and Jack Flaherty (high pitch count) lasted only four and five innings, respectively. And the bullpen, aside from Jordan Hicks and closer Bud Norris, hasn't been very reliable.

But Mikolas has been the definition of reliability in the season's first two months, going 6-0 with a 2.58 ERA and looking like an All-Star. His teammates bailed him out of a loss Sunday against the Pirates, which touched him for four runs in six innings, by rallying for a 6-4 win with two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth.

That comeback was a comparative breeze compared with Thursday night. Down to its last three outs, St. Louis never spent the first one. It filled the bases before Luke Voit drilled a two-run single to left, setting the stage for Munoz's game-winning blast.

"How can we put some pressure on them and put some guys on base? Three runs is a big ask," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We had to come through against a guy who's been coming through at the back end of the bullpen for them with real nice stuff."

St. Louis' rather extensive injured list includes shortstop Paul DeJong (broken hand), who was on the field to celebrate with his replacement. Munoz has offered a pretty credible imitation of DeJong's bat, going 14-of-31 in his last nine games with two homers and nine RBIs.

"He's taking advantage of his opportunity," Matheny said.

Munoz figures to be back in the lineup as the Cardinals (30-24) take their swings at Jameson Taillon (2-4, 4.53). That wasn't an easy proposition on Sunday as Taillon checked St. Louis on five hits and three runs in 6.1 innings, walking one and whiffing six. He left with a 4-1 lead before the bullpen gave it up for him.

Taillon obtained some key outs with a slider that is becoming a bigger part of his arsenal.

"The idea when I introduced that pitch was to have it be something that can take pressure off my fastball in hitter's counts," he said to "I was hoping one day it would morph into a strikeout pitch or an out pitch. I got a little bit of everything today."