Cards aim to take advantage of opportunities vs. Pirates

National Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals are behind two teams in the National League wild-card race and can’t afford to let opportunities slip past them.

Then again, wins aren’t attainable if you come up empty in all of your clutch-hitting chances.

The Cardinals will try to better take advantage of their scoring opportunities on Saturday night when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second contest of a three-game series.

St. Louis is trying to gain ground on the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card derby but has lost three of its past four games. The Cardinals trail both teams by 3 1/2 games in the race for the second wild card.

Pittsburgh recorded a 4-0 victory Friday as St. Louis racked up 10 hits (all singles) but went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left 12 runners on bases.

“We had our chances,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told reporters. “We had runners in scoring position and we had 12 on base. They made good pitches, and we weren’t able to cash in. We’re disappointed in it.”

Lars Nootbaar had his first career three-hit outing for the Cardinals but was stranded each time.

“Hitting wise, I think we did a decent job, but it would be nice to get those timely hits,” Nootbaar said.

All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado will look for a turnaround game after going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. He left five runners on base.

Arenado is batting just .221 in August, though he does have five homers and 18 RBIs.

Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has just one homer in his past 23 contests but extended his hitting streak to nine games on Friday. Goldschmidt is 15-for-36 (.417) during the stretch.

While St. Louis couldn’t produce a big hit, the Pirates scored their four runs on four hits while ending a five-game slide. It was Pittsburgh’s second win in the last 15 games.

Gregory Polanco drove in two runs without a hit — twice scoring teammates on sacrifice flies — and Yoshi Tsutsugo hit a pinch-hit homer.

Also, Mitch Keller (five innings) and relievers Duane Underwood Jr., David Bednar and Chris Stratton kept frustrating the Cardinals.

“I thought we pitched the ball really well,” Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings said. “All of our guys got in jams except for Stratt, and they left their runners out there. … They were outstanding.”

The Cardinals will start left-hander J.A. Happ (7-6, 6.03 ERA) on Saturday.

Happ will make his fourth start since being acquired from the Minnesota Twins. He is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA for St. Louis.

The 38-year-old Happ defeated the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Aug. 10 after allowing one run and one hit — a homer to Hoy Park — in six innings. He then yielded five hits over 5 2/3 shutout innings to beat the Kansas City Royals last Sunday.

Happ also beat the Pirates on April 23 while with Minnesota. He gave up one hit in 7 1/3 scoreless innings.

Overall, Happ is 6-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 12 career starts vs. Pittsburgh. All-Star outfielder Bryan Reynolds is 0-for-5 against Happ.

Left-hander Dillon Peters (0-1, 1.93) will make his second start for the Pirates. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels last month and was recently recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Peters lost to the Milwaukee Brewers in his team debut last Sunday. He gave up two runs (one earned) and five hits over 4 2/3 innings.

Peters has yet to face the Cardinals. However, he served up a three-run homer to Goldschmidt when the latter was with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017. Peters pitched for the Miami Marlins at the time.

–Field Level Media

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