PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Harrison Bader’s pinch-hit bloop single off Pittsburgh closer Felipe Vazquez keyed a late rally and helped the St. Louis Cardinals surge past the slumping Pirates 6-4 on Sunday.
The Cardinals won for just the fourth time in 19 games when trailing after seven innings by pouncing on Pittsburgh’s bullpen. St. Louis loaded the bases off Michael Feliz (0-2) and the Pirates brought in Vazquez with one out in the eighth. Bader fought off a 99 mph fastball from Vazquez and dumped it into shallow right field to tie the game.
Vazquez walked Yairo Munoz on four pitches to hand St. Louis the lead and the Cardinals added another on a fielder’s choice RBI by Carson Kelly. Vazquez has blown three straight save opportunities for the Pirates, who have dropped seven of nine.
Sam Tuivailala (1-0) picked up the win with a scoreless seventh. Bud Norris worked a perfect ninth for his 11th save.
Matt Carpenter went 2 for 4 for St. Louis and is hitting .422 (19 of 45) since May 16. Jedd Gyorko got the Cardinals within one with a pinch-hit, two-run single off Edgar Santana in the seventh.
Rookie Austin Meadows continued his torrid start for the Pirates, going 2 for 3 to boost his average to .455 since making his major league debut on May 16. Adam Frazier hit a two-run single off Miles Mikolas in the fifth, but Pittsburgh’s relievers couldn’t hold the lead after 6 1/3 solid innings by Jameson Taillon.
Taillon gave up three runs and five hits but remains winless since Apri 8.
The Cardinals’ comeback helped Mikolas avoid his first major league loss in nearly four years. The 29-year-old got his career on track while spending two seasons in Japan, doing enough for the Cardinals to offer him a two-year contract last December.
Relying heavily on impeccable control, Mikolas has been one of the biggest surprises in the majors and came in off a four-hit shutout against Kansas City that served notice that the 29-year-old’s hot start was hardly a fluke.
He had little trouble through the first four innings before a rare walk opened the door for the Pirates in the fifth. Elias Diaz led off with just the seventh walk issued by Mikolas this season. Jordy Mercer followed with a single before Frazier wore him down, fouling off six pitches before sending a shot over Tommy Pham in center field to drive in Mercer and Diaz. Meadows followed with a sacrifice fly to left to put Pittsburgh up 4-1.
Mikolas tied a season high by allowing four runs in six innings as his ERA ticked up to 2.54.
Cardinals: Held OF Dexter Fowler out of the lineup a day after Fowler took a 91 mph pitch off the right knee from Pittsburgh’s Trevor Williams. … Bench coach Mike Shildt suffered a head contusion after getting hit by a foul ball off the bat of Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte while sitting in the dugout in the first inning. Shildt returned in the third inning after receiving treatment.
Pirates: Scratched C Francisco Cervelli due to flu-like symptoms. … The team will wait at least one more day before deciding whether Ivan Nova’s sprained left index finger is bad enough to put him on the disabled list. General manager Neal Huntington said left-hander Steven Brault or rookie right-hander Nick Kingham are the top options if Nova is out.
Cardinals: Head to Milwaukee to take on the first-place Brewers on Monday. Luke Weaver (3-4, 4.31 ERA) starts in the opener.
Pirates: Host he Chicago Cubs for three games starting Monday. Chad Kuhl (4-2, 4.20 ERA) starts the opener. Kuhl is 1-4 with an 8.23 ERA in seven career starts against the Cubs.