|Pirates try to sneak closer to Cardinals|
With a win on Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates climbed out of last place in the National League Central. They beat the third-place St. Louis Cardinals, who sit three games out of first place and just 3 1/2 games above last place.
Such is life in baseball's most competitive division.
The visiting Pirates will look to continue their climb in the NL Central and deepen the Cardinals' descent Wednesday afternoon when the division rivals meet in the finale of a three-game series.
Pittsburgh's Chris Archer (3-6, 5.42 ERA) is scheduled to face St. Louis' Daniel Ponce de Leon (1-0, 1.99) in a battle of right-handers.
The Pirates snapped a four-game losing streak Tuesday night, when Colin Moran beat out an RBI infield single to snap a tie in the ninth inning of a 3-1 victory.
"It's a game of execution, and the last three innings, more or less, we didn't execute as well as they did," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "That was the difference in the game."
By the end of September, the NL Central might come down to such minute details.
The Pirates' win Tuesday and the other results involving NL Central teams further tightened the division race. The first-place Chicago Cubs dropped the Cincinnati Reds behind the Pirates with a 4-3, 10-inning win.
The Cubs remained 2 1/2 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers, who leapfrogged the Cardinals with a 13-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves. The Cardinals are three games back, and the Pirates are 5 1/2 games back.
If the Pirates are going to make up the gap, they'll need Archer to perform as he did last Friday, when he didn't factor into the decision after allowing three runs and striking out a season-high 10 over six-plus innings as Pittsburgh fell to the Cubs, 4-3.
Archer carried a one-hit shutout into the seventh before surrendering a homer to Kris Bryant, a single to Anthony Rizzo and a walk to Victor Caratini. Still, the Pirates were encouraged by the start, the longest for Archer since June 11 and the first one in which he reached double digits in strikeouts since he whiffed 13 batters in his penultimate start with the Tampa Bay Rays last July 22.
"You'd love to see a guy get the win every time he goes out there and gives you that kind of effort and that performance," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said following the game. "That's as well as we've seen him pitch in a Pirates uniform."
Ponce de Leon didn't factor into the decision in his most recent start last Friday, when he gave up one run and three hits over a season-high 6 2/3 innings as the Cardinals fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-2. He struck out seven without issuing a walk.
Archer is 0-0 with a 2.20 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals. Ponce de Leon lost his lone start against the Pirates last Sept. 12, when he allowed two runs over five innings as St. Louis fell, 4-3.
--Field Level Media