Game 2 of the National League Division Series did not go as the Cardinals hoped Friday  afternoon as St. Louis lost 7-1 to Pittsburgh, evening up the five-game series.
The Cardinals had just two hits over the first five innings, both going for extra bases. Carlos Beltran had a one-out double in the first and Yadier Molina blasted a solo home run to lead off the fifth.
One day after Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright got tagged for a monster blast off the bat of Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates’ third baseman hit another blast, this time a 418-foot two-run home run to center.
“This is a very good pitching staff,” Alvarez said. “Like I have said before, they demand that you try to bring your a-game every single time, every single pitch, full concentration and just try to capitalize on maybe hitting a mistake, because they don’t make very many mistakes.”
Justin Morneau singled with one out in the fourth and scored on Alvarez’s two-out home run to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
Pittsburgh got their first run in the third when Alvarez roped a ground rule double to center that bounced over the fence on one hop. After striking out Russell Martin, Lynn intentionally walked Jordy Mercer to face Pirates’ starter Gerrit Cole. The rookie made Lynn regret it when he singled up the middle to drive in Alvarez.
“(Alvarez) is a good hitter,” Cardinals’ starting pitcher Lance Lynn said. “He leads the National League in home runs. The way the ball was carrying today, he put two balls in the air that carried well for him and it worked out well.”
Lynn did not make it out of the fifth inning. After giving up back-to-back doubles to Morneau and Marlon Byrd, followed by a walk to Alvarez, Matheny went to his bullpen, bringing in Seth Maness.
“It’s playoff baseball,” Lynn said. “They got their hits when they needed to, and they strung them together when they needed to, just like we did yesterday.”
Maness allowed a single to Martin that scored Byrd before getting out of the inning without any further damage.
Lynn (0-1) finished the day allowing five runs, all earned, on seven hits and three walks. Lynn struck out six in his 4.1 innings of work.
“It was just a bad game,” Lynn said. “I threw four bad pitches for four extra base hits. That is what got me today. If I make a couple of better pitches here and there it might be a different ball game.”
Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny wasn’t too disappointed with his starter’s performance.
“I thought Lance did a pretty nice job early,” Matheny said. “The only time he got into trouble is when he didn’t control the counts. I thought he established his off-speed pitches as well as we’ve seen him do that all season long.”
Even with Lynn out of the game, the Pirates continued to get on base.
Maness gave up a hit and a fielder’s choice after relieving Lynn, allowing one inherited runner to score. Jon Axford walked a pair in the sixth before Randy Choate was called in to get a double play, and he did. Kevin Siegrist should have had a 1-2-3 seventh inning, but an error put Byrd on second. He advanced to third on Alvarez’s ground out and scored on Martin’s fly out to right.
Freese then mishandled another ball in the seventh that was ruled a hit for Mercer before Siegrist got pinch hitter Gabby Sanchez to pop out to Carpenter.
Shelby Miller, who was told he would NOT be starting in a possible Game 4, was not any better. The rookie served up 413-foot homer to Starling Marte to open the eighth.
The only reliever to have a quiet inning was recently demoted closer Edward Mujica who made his first appearance of the postseason.
“I was feeling pretty good,” Mujica said. “It is part of the game. Sometimes we have a good outing and sometimes we have a bad outing. The confidence is there and I just prepared myself and my mind to be ready to go for October.”
Mujica set the Pirates down 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth for one of just two 1-2-3 innings on the day.
“They have a pretty good line and pretty good hitters,” Mujica said. “I just went out there and tried to go with a first pitch strike and go after them with my breaking pitch.”
Cole (1-0) finished the day allowing just two hits and one earned run over six innings of work. He struck out five and walked one.
“He had good stuff,” Matheny said of Cole. “I mean he had good life to the ball. He was not making a lot of mistakes and had enough horsepower if he needed to challenge somebody that he could get by with it. But he came out very aggressive.”
It wasn’t until the Cardinals were into Pittsburgh’s bullpen that St. Louis had two runners on bases in the same inning. With Cole finally out of the game, Matt Adams singled to open the home half of the seventh. It was just the third hit of the day, and fourth base runner, for St. Louis. Following a strikeout, Freese then walked. However, nothing would come of it as the Redbirds left both runners on base.
That was the Cardinals only real threat of the game.
One day after compiling nine hits and only two strike outs, the offense fell apart, striking out nine times and collecting just four hits. Adams had half of the hits, a seventh inning single and a ninth inning double.
The two teams will be off today before Game 3 gets underway on Sunday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
“They are going to be rowdy and they are going to be into it,” Matheny said. “And they should be, just like our fans have been. So, it’s a great atmosphere and that’s what they have to look at. It’s a great opportunity for us to go out and perform despite what else is going on.”