Paul Maholm came out firing; nine of his ten first inning pitches were heaters. Made no difference that none of them hit ninety on the gun; they worked well enough to put the Cards down in order.
Jake Westbrook didn't have the same success; his sinking fastball was taken into right by Jose Tabata with one out for a single. Neil Walker drew a nine pitch walk after fouling of three pitches; JT's tongue was hanging after taking off on all those pitches.
It only took Westwood seven pitches to walk Garrett Jones. Pedro wasn't as patient; he singled a run home. Dewey lined a single to right to plate another Bucco. John Bowker pounded a ball to short; instead of ending the inning, Brendan Ryan booted it. No wonder the Cards are eating the Reds' dust.
Cedeno rapped a ball to third that came home for a force, and Maholm K'ed. Still, 3-0 is a nice start; let's see what Maholm can do with the lead.
Matt Holliday started off by rolling a ball up the middle after fouling off four pitches at the knees, and Yadier Molina followed with a single to right. But he came back to retire the bottom of the order routinely and get the Pirates back to the bat rack. No more instant karma for the Bucs; they went down 1-2-3, though it's taken Westbrook 61 pitches to get six outs.
Brendan Ryan starter the third with a single to center. Maholm got the next two hitters, but Sir Albert smacked a double to score Ryan. Working carefully to Holliday, Maholm got a full-count curve lifted to right to finish the frame.
Jones started off by flying out to the track in center, just in front of the 399' mark, which proved to be the highlight of the inning.
The Redbirds went down in order in the fourth. Ronny Cedeno bounced a single into right with one away and PM bunted him to second. McCutch walked, and both runners came in when JT cracked a triple the opposite way to right. walker lined out to end the frame; the lead was now 5-1.
Pinch hitter Joe Mather became the third Card to lead off with a hit when he singled to start off the fifth. Tyler Greene got a one-out infield single to third. Allen Craig singled to load the sacks for Albert Pujols. The three hitters on the bases have averages of .208, .225, and .193. Holy Mario Mendoza rally!
Albert grounded into a force at second; the Bucs couldn't turn the DP and a run scored. Maholm turned the burner down to a simmer when he got Holliday to ground out. He's managed to avoid his curse of a big inning so far tonight.
Trever Miller came on to work the fifth, and sat the Bucs down quickly; Maholm did the same. He's had a couple of rough patches, but he's up three runs and at a pitch count of 90.
With one away, Cedeno dropped a bunt for a base hit, and Maholm again dutifully moved him to second. Mitchell Boggs took the ball from Miller. There was no two out magic this time; McCutch bounced out to third.
Maholm cruised through the seventh, picking up a pair of K's. Walker flew out to the wall in left center at the 389' mark; maybe the Pirates need some weight training going into next year.
Maholm hit the showers after 101 pitches. He went seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with four strikeouts; Joel Hanrahan climbed the hill for the eighth.
Aaron Miles reached on a Walker boot; Pujols found the hole and singled to left. But Hanny got the next three without allowing the leadoff guys to advance. Denny Reyes got the call for the Cards, and handled the Pirates without breaking a sweat. It was time for the Meek-qualizer.
Tony LaRussa sent up three lefties; Meek set down three lefties for his fourth save. That's four in a row for Pittsburgh for the first time since August of 2009.
Charlie Morton continues on his road to redemption against Kyle Lohse tomorrow night.
-- Garrett Jones and Brad Lincoln are both available for action; Jones got the start tonight.
-- A lot has been made about Neil Walker falling behind so often, and it should be. He's a .372 hitter when he makes contact ahead in the count, but just .208 when he's behind. McCutch has the same problem, though not as pronounced; he hits .294 when ahead in the count and .242 when behind. Both could stand a little more aggressiveness at the dish.
But Jose Tabata is proving to be the perfect two hitter when in a deep count. JT smacks the ball at a .333 clip when ahead in the count, and .294 when in a pitcher's count.
-- Bullpen coach Luis Dorante will manage the Bravos de Margarita club in Venezuela this winter. Neil Walker and Justin Thomas are expected to play for him. Jason Jaramillo is slated to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and Lastings Milledge plans to play in Venezuela during the off season.
-- Pittsburgh will assign pitchers Justin Wilson, Aaron Pribanic and Brian Leach to Arizona Fall League. They'll join position players Tony Sanchez, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Andrew Lambo.
-- Jose Bautista is one homer away from becoming the 26th player in baseball history to hit 50 homers in a season. He could join an even more exclusive club, though.
Bautista has 95 walks with 13 games left, making it likely that he'll reach the century mark for the year. There have been just 13 players ever to hit 50 dingers and walk 100 times.