Thursday’s Game Report: Pirates 8, Cardinals 2

Thursday’s Game Report: Pirates 8, Cardinals 2

By Rob Rains

Getting back off the road and playing the Pirates did not produce the kind of game the Cardinals were hoping for on Thursday night.

Instead, they lost for the sixth time in their last seven games, the first time they have lost to the Pirates this season, in a game that looked very similar to the five they lost on the just-completed road trip.

It was another struggling start for Carlos Martinez, who walked a season-high seven batters and gave up five runs as he lost his fifth consecutive start.

In those five games, Martinez has allowed 30 runs in a combined 19 2/3 innings. He has not won a game since May 8.

Manager Mike Shildt said after the game that changes were going to be made to the team’s rotation but did not mention Martinez by name.

“We have to change our trajectory,” Shildt said. “We’re going to have to do something a little bit different.”

The changes will be internal moves, Shildt said.

“Our pitching’s not been good enough,” Shildt said, noting that the team’s starters have averaged four innings per start in recent weeks. “That’s not a recipe for consistent winning baseball … We’ve got to do something different in our rotation.”

No starter other than Adam Wainwright has won a game since May 27.

The trouble Thursday night began immediately for Martinez, who walked the Pirates’ leadoff hitter, then gave up a hit and ended up throwing 32 pitches and allowing two runs before the first inning was over.

A three-run homer in the fourth – which came after the Cardinals failed to turn what would have been an inning-ending double play – sent the Pirates to the easy win in the opener of the four-game series at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals, according to Tommy Edman, had a clubhouse meeting to talk about the changes they needed to make in their preparation and in-game approach, but didn’t show much of either.

Here is how Thursday night’s game broke down:

At the plate: The Cardinals were limited to just three hits through the first seven innings, all singles. Lars Nootbaar drove in the first run with a second-inning single, driving in Tyler O’Neill, who had drawn a leadoff walk … They didn’t score again until the eighth, when two walks and a hit batter with the bases loaded (O’Neill) brought the run home … It was the ninth time in their last 11 games the Cardinals have been heled to two or fewer runs … Dylan Carlson moved into the leadoff spot, with Edman dropping to sixth, and had a pair of singles.

On the mound: Martinez allowed eight of the first 16 hitters he faced to reach base, six of them on walks. He was able to get out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third with consecutive fly outs, but following the botched double play in the fourth, gave up the three-run homer to the next hitter, Bryan Reynolds … Martinez lost for the ninth time in his 14 starts … Wade LeBlanc, a likely candidate to move into the rotation, allowed two runs, both on homers, in his 2 1/3 innings and Seth Elledge allowed an inherited runner to score in the eighth.

Key stat: Martinez has now allowed 19 runs in the first inning in his 14 starts, an ERA of 12.51.

Worth noting: Harrison Bader is taking live at-bats on the back fields of the Cardinals’ complex in Jupiter, Fla., as he continues to recover from a broken rib. It is likely he will soon begin an official rehab assignment with either Memphis or Springfield, Shildt said … Also expected to head out on a rehab assignment soon is reliever Kodi Whitley, who has been out since May 27 because of a back issue … The Cardinals lost pitcher Bernardo Flores Jr. to the Rockies on Thursday. He had been designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Nootbaar and was claimed on waivers … The Cardinals top pitching prospect, Matthew Liberatore, started for Memphis against Toledo on Thursday night and took the loss. He gave up two homers in the first inning but went on to strike out nine batters in 5 1/3 innings.

Looking ahead: Kwang Hyun Kim, who has lost his last five decisions, will get the start on Friday night in the second game of the series.

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.