Sunday Game Report: Pirates 5, Cardinals 1

Sunday Game Report: Pirates 5, Cardinals 1

By Rob Rains

One of the realities of the shortened 2020 baseball season is that even though every game counts the same, some are more important than others.

For the Cardinals to increase their chances of repeating as the NL Central champions, winning games against teams such as the Pirates – expected to finish in the division basement – are critical.

They failed to do that on Sunday at Busch Stadium, and even though they won the first two games and the series, there was a natural letdown that they did not complete the series sweep.

Every game in this 60-game sprint is equal to 2.7 games in a 162-game season.

“We wanted obviously to continue to win but at the end of the day winning series is what we are trying to do,” said Kolten Wong. “That’s going to keep us in the positives.”

Coming into the game the Cardinals had won 12 of their last 13 games against the Pirates, dating back to July 17 of last year.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: The Cardinals managed just five hits. Their only run scored in the third when Wong scored from second on a slow rolling infield hit by Tommy Edman … Paul Goldschmidt was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double to end the sixth inning and Paul DeJong hit a leadoff double in the seventh but was left stranded … Lane Thomas got the start in place of Harrison Bader in center field and drew a walk in three plate appearances. He was thrown out trying to advance on a short wild pitch … The three outfielders, Thomas, Tyler O’Neill and Dexter Fowler, were a combined 0-of-8 … Matt Carpenter fouled a ball off his knee before he struck out to end the game.

On the mound: After successfully pitching around three hits in the first three innings, Dakota Hudson was not as lucky in the fourth, partially because two of the hits he allowed were home runs. After leading the NL in walks last season, Hudson issued only one walk in his 4 2/3 innings in his season debut … Kodi Whitley made his MLB debut by working a 1-2-3 seventh, including striking out Adam Frazier. Whitley was the Cardinals’ 27th round pick in the 2017 draft out of Mount Olive (N.C.) College and was signed by area scout T.C. Calhoun. “It’s something that’s hard to put into words,” Whitley said. “You imagine it, you dream about it, then it happens. It’s such a surreal moment and something I will never forget.” Because fans are not allowed at games, however, Whitley’s family and friends were forced to cheer for him in absentia, watching on television. “Not having the family and friends here was the weird thing about it,” he said. “That’s the biggest part of anybody’s debut. They were all watching and I’m sure my phone is blowing up.”

Key stat: The Cardinals were trying to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 2006.

Worth noting: The Cardinals decided to wait until Tuesday to activate reliever Giovanny Gallegos, filling the 30th spot on the roster … Manager Mike Shildt said the team has received positive reports on both Alex Reyes and Genesis Cabrera from the satellite camp in Springfield but there is no timetable to bring them to the majors. The Cardinals will actually have to trim their current roster from 30 to 28 players by Aug. 8.

Looking ahead: Carlos Martinez will make his first start since July 30, 2018 when the Cardinals’ first road trip begins on Tuesday night in Minnesota. Moved to the bullpen after that start because of shoulder issues, Martinez has made 54 consecutive relief appearances.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.