Tuesday’s Game Report: Cardinals 5, Pirates 2

Tuesday’s Game Report: Cardinals 5, Pirates 2

By Rob Rains

When the Cardinals started this season with Paul Goldschmidt hitting second and Nolan Arenado third, the theory was simple – ensure that the team’s two best hitters got an at-bat in the first inning.

On the 19th game of the year, the lineup changed with Dylan Carlson inserted into the second spot, dropping Goldschmidt to third and Arenado to his customary cleanup spot.

While the move doesn’t guarantee Arenado an at-bat in the first inning, it still has happened more times than not – and often the result has been good for the Cardinals.

It happened again on Tuesday night, and for the second game in a row, Arenado blasted a two-run homer, his 10th of the season, sending the Cardinals to their eighth consecutive win over the Pirates, a streak that dates back to last September.

In the 24 games the Cardinals have played with Arenado hitting fourth, he has come up to bat in the first inning 17 times – and gone 7-of-15 with two homers, seven RBIs and two walks.

Overall this season, Arenado has gone 13-of-33 in the first inning, a .394 average. His 13 hits are tied for the most in the NL in the first inning and his eight RBIs are only one behind league leader Manny Machado’s total of nine.

Arenado has now homered in his last four games, two shy of his career-high of homering in six consecutive games, for the Rockies in 2015. The four homers came in the span of nine plate appearances.

“Man what a pretty stroke,” said manager Mike Shildt.

“The value of him is exponential beyond what he does. He makes other people around him better. He creates more opportunities for guys around him … He’s got a real focus and drive to what he does and how he does it. A lot of the greats have that quality.

“I think he’s clearly capable of taking those consistent quality at-bats where he drives the baseball and uses the whole field. I think that’s what you can expect to see out of Nolan.”

Here is how Tuesday night’s game broke down:

At the plate: The Cardinals added to their lead with two runs in the second, driven in on a bloop single by Tommy Edman. It scored Harrison Bader, who reached on a walk, and Edmundo Sosa, who singled … Sosa also had a double in the third, driving in Arenado, for his first career RBI … Arenado walked in that inning and got his second hit, a single, in the seventh … All of the Cardinals runs scored with two outs … Edman, after getting a combined four hits in his previous seven games, had a three-hit game while Dylan Carlson had two singles and also reached on a walk … Justin Williams got the start in left field but was 0-of-4, striking out in each at-bat.

On the mound: The biggest stat of the night for starter John Gant was that he issued only one walk, and that wasn’t until the second batter he faced in the sixth inning. He did not allow a run in the first five innings, giving up just four hits, but left the game with two runners on base in the sixth and both later scored on a ground out and an infield single off Genesis Cabrera … The only other walk issued by the Cardinals was a leadoff walk by Alex Reyes in the ninth, before he retired the next three batters to earn his 12th save … Giovanny Gallegos worked two perfect innings in relief before turning the ball over to Reyes.

Key stat: After his 2-of-4 night, Carlson is hitting an even .400 (28-of-70) at home this season. His walk allowed him to raise his on-base percentage in games at Busch Stadium this year to .462, reaching base in 37 of his 80 plate appearances.

Worth noting: Tyler O’Neill broke the middle finger on his left hand while stealing second base on Sunday night in San Diego and was placed on the 10-day injured list before Tuesday night’s game, the second time O’Neill has had to go on the IL in the first seven weeks of the season. He was out earlier with a groin injury … In other roster moves, John Nogowski and Daniel Ponce de Leon were activated off the injured list, and reliever Junior Fernandez was optioned to Memphis … Carlos Martinez threw another bullpen session before the game and if he recovers well, it’s likely both he and Miles Mikolas will be back in the starting rotation this weekend against the Cubs or early next week. The Cardinals will begin their second stretch of 17 games in 17 days on Friday so it is likely they will use a sixth starter twice during that stretch to keep all of the pitchers on the five days of rest plan they have used so far this season … Andrew Miller could go out on a short rehab assignment starting as soon as Friday.

Looking ahead: Jack Flaherty, off to a 7-0 start, will pitch the second game of the series on Wednesday night against the Pirates. Flaherty has allowed a total of seven earned runs in his last seven starts and has not allowed a run in a combined 13 innings in his last two outings.

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.