Cardinals look to clinch series against Pirates

MLB Baseball

The St. Louis Cardinals have one kink in their formula they surely want to fix Saturday evening in the second game of a weekend series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

That would be cutting down on free passes. St. Louis pitchers walked nine Friday, but the team still got a series-opening 7-3 win aided by homers from Matt Carpenter and Tyler O’Neill.

O’Neill is a more valuable part of the formula. Since coming off the injured list, he is 9-for-26 with four homers.

“I’m feeling good out there,” the outfielder told Bally Sports Midwest. “I was able to take a step back during my rehab stint, just kind of reel things in a little bit and see some pitches. (I’m just) putting good swings on things I should be hitting, is all.”

Friday’s win, in the first of 19 meetings between the clubs this season, boosted the Cardinals to 13-2 at PNC Park since the beginning of 2019, including five wins in a row.

Pittsburgh will need to win Saturday and Sunday to keep its unbeaten series streak alive.

The Pirates have gone 4-0-2 in their past six series after losing their first two.

So far, Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to capitalize on a couple of holes in St. Louis’ roster — no veteran catcher Yadier Molina, and no veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright.

Wainwright, originally scheduled to start Sunday, went on the COVID-19 injured list on Thursday, while Molina was put on the 10-day IL because of a strained tendon in his right foot.

“With Wainwright it’s maybe a little different because you may not see him in a series — although we were supposed to — but with (Molina), he’s kind of the lifeblood of the Cardinals,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton told AT&T Sportsnet. “He’s been there it seems like forever. He controls a lot of things. … We need to take advantage.”

St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty (4-0, 3.18 ERA) is scheduled to start against Pittsburgh right-hander Trevor Cahill (1-2, 7.11) on Saturday.

Flaherty reached a season high by going seven innings Sunday in a win against Cincinnati, giving up one run and three hits with six strikeouts and no walks.

“That’s the absolute start of efficiency,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “He’s in control completely of what he’s doing. And if he has a small miss, he gets right back to making a pitch that he wants to make. He’s doing a great job, he’s in a great spot, he’s a great talent.”

Against the Pirates, Flaherty is 6-1 with a 1.89 ERA in nine career starts. He has struck out 58 and walked 13 in 57 innings.

That’s more career wins than he has against any other franchise. He has lasted six or more innings and given up one or fewer runs in six of those nine starts, and his career ERA against the Pirates is the lowest among Cardinals starters since 1920.

Cahill, meanwhile, had a couple of rough outings early but found his footing last Saturday in a win at Minnesota when he gave up one run and two hits in six innings, with two strikeouts and two walks.

Against the Cardinals, Cahill is 1-3 with a 4.02 ERA in 14 career appearances, six of them starts.

–Field Level Media

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