Game Report: Cardinals 11, Pirates 5

By Rob Rains

It didn’t take long for Miles Mikolas to realize there was something different about his start against the Pirates on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.

When he went back out to the mound for the second inning, Mikolas had a lead. That had not happened in his two previous starts against the Pirates this season as the Cardinals were shut out in both games accounting for two of Mikolas’ four losses this season.

The lead was courtesy of a two-run double from Marcell Ozuna in the first which helped Mikolas win his 15th game of the season. He improved to 14-0 when receiving three or more runs of support.

The Cardinals added on to the first-inning lead with two runs in the sixth, one in the seventh and six in the eighth, highlighted by a three-run blast from Tyler O’Neill, as they kept the heat on both the Cubs and Brewers in both the NL Central and the wild-card race.

They picked up a game on Milwaukee in the wild-card race, now 1 ½ games behind the Brewers for the top spot, and remained 3 ½ games behind the Cubs in the division race with 17 games to play.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Ozuna’s double, which followed a leadoff walk by Matt Carpenter and a single by Jose Martinez, was the last hit for the Cardinals until Carpenter singled leading off the sixth after Joe Musgrove retired 14 batters in a row … Carpenter later scored on a wild pitch and Paul DeJong added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly … Another wild pitch produced a run in the seventh before the Cardinals blew the game open with six runs in the eighth, three coming on O’Neill’s eighth homer, which was estimated at 457 feet … Ozuna added a sacrifice fly for his third RBI of the game to cap the big inning.

On the mound: The only run off Mikolas came in the fourth, when he gave up a leadoff double and a one-out single. He allowed five hits over his seven innings, walking one and striking out seven – including five in a row - as he raised his record to 15-4 … Bud Norris worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Luke Weaver, who had not pitched since his start against the Reds on Sept. 2, could only retire two of eight hitters he faced in the ninth, giving up four runs.

Key stat: Despite missing a chance to pad his offensive numbers when he struck out and lined out with the bases loaded, Ozuna still leads the Cardinals in average, homers and RBIs in September. He has gone 13-of-38 in nine games this month, a .342 average, with five homers and 10 RBIs. He actually started the month going hitless in his first eight at-bats, so in his last seven games Ozuna has a .433 average (13-of-30).

Worth noting: Adam Wainwright’s next start will be on Sunday night against the Dodgers. Manager Mike Shildt said, “He’s earned it. As much as we love Waino – and I definitely am in that group – this is about merit. It makes sense.” Wainwright worked five innings on Monday night in his first start since May 13, giving up four runs … The rotation for the four-game series against the Dodgers will be Austin Gomber, Jack Flaherty, John Gant and Wainwright … Mike Mayers was activated from the DL on Tuesday and was available in the bullpen … It is likely that Jedd Gyorko will be activated on Thursday … The Cardinals announced that the start time for their game on Saturday, Sept. 22 against the Giants has been moved from 6:15 p.m. to 12:05 p.m. because of national television.

Looking ahead: Daniel Poncedeleon will get the start in Wednesday’s 12:15 p.m. game as the Cardinals try to sweep the series against the Pirates.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains