The most crucial and anticipated series of the Pirates’ season so far did not get off to a good start Thursday night. The Buccos dropped game one of this 4-game series with division rival Cardinals by a score of 4-1. Jeff Locke had things under control for the Pirates until the fifth inning, when the Cards put up a 4-spot on two bases-loaded 2-run single by Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina. Thanks to a fielding error by Jordy Mercer, only one of the four runs was earned by Locke.
The Pirates were kept off the scoreboard until the bottom of the ninth, when McCutchen led off the inning and hit the eleventh pitch of the at-bat 447 feet to center field. Jung Ho Kang nearly went back-to-back after, but was caught in left field at the warning track. Francisco Cervelli and Pedro Alvarez both struck out to end the game. McCutchen’s home run extended his hitting streak to a career best 16 games.
This series is insanely important for the Pirates. The pressure is all on them. The Cardinals now hold a 5.5-game lead in the division. The time to take advantage of moving up in the standings is when you are facing the team ahead of you. There’s still three games left here, and the Buccos are sending their three best pitchers in these games. A 2-2 split in the series can suffice, but if the Pirates want to send a message, they need to win these last three games.
The Pirates will try to answer back tomorrow, sending all-star Gerrit Cole (12-3, 2.28 ERA) to face St. Louis’ Lance Lynn (6-4, 2.53 ERA). First pitch is at 7:05 pm at PNC Park.