Cardinals look for upswing against struggling Pirates

National Sports

This could be considered a sign of mediocrity: The St. Louis Cardinals sat at .500 for the 21st time this season going into their game Sunday against Kansas City.

They lost, meaning they will be chasing .500 once again Tuesday when they open a three-game series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

“It’s nothing new for us,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said of bouncing back. “Win or lose, you get ready to play the next game, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Goldschmidt made a costly throwing error — his first of the year — in the 6-5 loss to the Royals, but Cardinals manager Mike Shildt doesn’t believe Pittsburgh can count on that happening this week.

“He’s been here three years; I’ve seen him make two,” Shildt said. “You’ve got almost as good a chance of seeing Bigfoot.”

St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty, out since the end of May because of a left oblique strain, is “probable” to be ready to return during this series, Shildt said. He added that whether that is Thursday in the series finale or Friday at Kansas City where Flaherty would not have to hit is being debated.

Pittsburgh has lost five in a row, is 5-15 in the past 20 games and is coming off a four-game sweep at the hands of Cincinnati in which the Reds rang up a 31-9 cumulative score.

With the Pirates in a rebuilding year, on pace for more than 100 losses, and after trading away some regulars, they are expected to give newcomers and youngsters a good look.

Established regulars such as center fielder Bryan Reynolds, first baseman Colin Moran and catcher Jacob Stallings will no doubt be a part of the lineup most days, but young players such as infielder/outfielder Hoy Park and outfielder Anthony Alford are the latest to be given the chance to acclimate to the major leagues.

Park and Alford went a combined 8-for-21 against the Reds.

“You’re going to see those guys play,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “They’re definitely going to get opportunities.”

The series opener is expected to feature two left-handed starters, St. Louis’ J.A. Happ (5.6, 6.62 ERA) against Pittsburgh’s Steven Brault (0-0, 2.25).

This will be Brault’s second start of the season after being out because of a left arm strain. In his first start, he did not get a decision Wednesday at Milwaukee, giving up one run and three hits in four innings.

“It’s kind of nice to face a good team and not get shellacked the first start back,” Brault said. “I think it’ll be a good progression, a good build, so I’m excited to see where we go from here.”

Against St. Louis, Brault is 1-2 with a 4.95 ERA in 12 appearances, half of them starts.

Happ is coming off a first of sorts, too — his first start with St. Louis after being acquired from Minnesota.

That was last Tuesday, when he allowed two runs and five hits in five innings against Atlanta.

Happ is 5-3 with a 2.63 ERA in 11 career starts against Pittsburgh, including a gem April 23, when he had a no-hitter going through 7 1/3 innings before giving up a double to Stallings and being pulled at 95 pitches.

–Field Level Media

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