The St. Louis Cardinals get another crack at the Pirates when the teams open a four-game series Thursday in Pittsburgh.
St. Louis finished a 3-5 homestand with a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday. The Cardinals dropped two of three to the Pirates last weekend.
The recent downturn has diminished the Cardinals’ playoff hopes, especially with ace starter Jack Flaherty going on the injured list Wednesday because of a right shoulder strain.
St. Louis totaled 25 runs in the eight games on its homestand, but eight of those runs came in one game, and the Cardinals were shut out twice.
“We haven’t created a lot of margin for error for ourselves,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We don’t scratch (out) enough runs consistently. It feels like almost every night, man, we’ve got to play almost ideally, airtight.”
The last time the Cardinals visited Pittsburgh, they swept the Pirates in three games Aug. 10-12.
Pittsburgh is an also-ran but is 7-5-1 in its past 13 home series. None of those was via a sweep, however, as the Pirates lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-2 on Wednesday to remain the only team in the major leagues that has not swept a series.
Missing the sweep after not only winning the first two games but also holding an early 2-0 advantage Wednesday left the Pirates a little sour.
“It’s frustrating because we had the lead and kind of gave it back a little bit,” said Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton after an uneven game from his bullpen and a costly error led to the loss.
In the series opener Thursday, St. Louis right-hander Miles Mikolas (0-1, 1.00 ERA) is scheduled to start opposite right-hander Mitch Keller (4-10, 6.35 ERA).
Facing St. Louis could come at a good time for Keller, who has struggled a good deal this year. He is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals, including a 4-0 win Friday on the road when he pitched five scoreless innings. Keller struck out six while walking one.
“I think that speaks to the fastball execution,” Shelton said. “That’s a good lineup, and he was able to get through them and kind of mix and match.”
The outing, his fourth since a stint at Triple-A Indianapolis, gave Keller a ton of confidence.
“It feels amazing, honestly, after everything I’ve been through this year working back,” Keller said. “I felt really good in my (previous three) starts. The results weren’t there, and I think I just came full circle. Just attacked the zone and got hitters out.”
Mikolas will be making his second start after being sidelined since late May because of a right forearm injury. His first start back occurred Friday against the Pirates, when he gave up two runs (both unearned) in five innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
In his career, Mikolas is 4-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) against the Pirates. He has more appearances and starts against Pittsburgh than against any other opponent.
–Field Level Media