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July 30 - Pirates Seize Division Lead after Sweeping Twin Bill

September 29, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

July 30, 2013

Pirates 2, St. Louis 1

Pirates 6, St. Louis 0

Article Photos

BRANDON CUMPTON

Turning Points in the games: In the opener, it took an 11th inning single by Alex Presley to give the Pirates a 2-1 victory on a strong start by A.J. Burnett. In the nightcap, Brandon Cumpton picked up his first Major League victory by shutting out the Cardinals 6-0 over seven strong innings.

After a euphoric doubleheader sweep of reeling St. Louis on July 30 that propelled them to the top of the division, the Pittsburgh Pirates were ready to get greedy.

"We want more," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Keep pitching like this, and that shouldn't be a problem.

Alex Presley hit a game-ending single with two outs in the 11th inning, lifting the Pirates to a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener July 30.

Presley hit a sharp bouncer that deflected off the glove of pitcher Kevin Siegrist and away from shortstop Pete Kozma, who was moving toward second base. Kozma could not recover and the ball rolled into the outfield, allowing Russell Martin to sprint all the way home from second base.

Pirates starter A.J. Burnett pitched seven emotionally charged innings, giving up one run on three hits, striking out nine and walking three. Though it was just his second victory since May 3, Burnett's performance set the tone and the bullpen followed his lead.

"It's a battle, it's fun," Burnett said. "Let's roll from here. Let's keep going."

Vin Mazzaro (6-2) picked up the victory after retiring three of the four batters he faced in the 11th. Despite leading the National League in runs and batting average, the Cardinals went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position in the opener.

"We had some hard-hit balls with runners in scoring position," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It just didn't work out."

The Pirates survived by doing what they've done for most of the first four months of the season, riding another stellar effort from baseball's top pitching staff and getting just enough hitting to win.

Presley's slapper capped a 3-hour, 52-minute marathon that had all the makings of playoff baseball. A packed PNC Park - on a Tuesday afternoon, no less - buzzed as Burnett and Lynn matched each other for the better part of two hours.

Burnett received a bit of help with two on and one out in the first when center fielder Andrew McCutchen made a diving grab of a sinking liner by Carlos Beltran. The Gold Glover then hopped to his feet and alertly doubled up Holliday.

Three hours after Alex Presley's grounder caromed off Siegrist's glove in the opener, the Pirates breezed to a 6-0 victory in the second game behind rookie starter Brandon Cumpton.

Working with usual Triple-A battery mate Tony Sanchez - making his major league debut - Cumpton scattered three hits over seven innings to extend the Cardinals' losing streak to a season-high six games.

"Pitching inside has been my thing all year," Cumpton said. "I didn't want to get away from it. I wanted to force the issue."

All it did was compound the issues for St. Louis, which has scored all of five runs in the last 56 innings. Even worse, catcher Yadier Molina is likely headed to the disabled list after leaving in the top of the fourth inning of the second game with a sprained right knee.

The sweep pushed Pittsburgh to a season-high 22 games over .500.

Cardinals starter Tyler Lyons gave up four runs, three earned, in six innings. He struck out five and walked one but received no help from a reeling offense and some sloppy play in the field.

On the heels of Presley's game-winner, the fortuitous bounces kept on coming for the Pirates, who took a 1-0 lead in the second when a rare passed ball by Molina let Jose Tabata sprint across the plate. Molina was done for the night in the top of the fourth when the right knee pain he'd been battling for the better part of a month flared up again. He was replaced by Rob Johnson.

The absence of their leader further weakened the Cardinals, and things quickly fell apart. While Cumpton kept the NL's top offense in check, Pittsburgh poured it on with a little help from St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday. The Pirates took a 2-0 lead on Jordy Mercer's RBI single before McCutchen stepped in. He drilled Lyons' pitch deep to left but Holliday appeared ready to track it down at the wall. Instead, the ball popped off the heel of Holliday's glove and into the stands.

Cumpton needed just 87 pitches to get 21 outs. He received a loud ovation as he headed to the dugout, the latest in a series of unheralded Pirates pitchers to rise from obscurity and help propel the franchise into the midst of a pennant race.

 
 
 

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