The Pirates had a chance to make things interesting in the NL Central with their series against the first-place Cardinals this week, but now it’s increasingly likely that they are looking at a Wild Card game matchup against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs.
On the strength of a ninth-inning rally, the Cardinals beat the Pirates 3-0 tonight at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The game remained scoreless until the Cardinals took advantage of some leaky defense on the part of the Pirates. Matt Carpenter reached on a out-out single against Mark Melancon before Jon Jay singled up the middle. Neither Gregory Polanco nor Andrew McCutchen could field the ball cleanly, so Carpenter came all the way around to score on the play. Mark Reynolds then followed with a two-run homer to provide some insurance.
Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal had a monster meltdown on Sunday and it looked like we were in for some more drama after he walked Andrew McCutchen and gave up a single to Starling Marte to begin the bottom of the ninth. However, Rosenthal struck out Neil Walker swinging after a long at-bat before getting Francisco Cervelli to fly out and Aramis Ramirez to line out to first base to end it. Rosenthal now has a franchise record 48 saves. Jason Isringhausen (2004) and Lee Smith (1991) previously shared the record.
It was a frustrating night for the Pirates. J.A. Happ was excellent yet again, allowing just one hit over six scoreless innings. Pittsburgh’s offense had plenty of chances against Lance Lynn and the St. Louis bullpen, but they failed to capitalize, ultimately standing 16 base runners.
The Pirates are now four games back of the Cardinals with five games remaining. The Cardinals’ magic number is down to two to clinch the division, so they could wrap things up with another win tomorrow.
UPDATE: The Cardinals announced that all tests on Piscotty were negative and he’ll be held overnight for observation. Fantastic news.
9:49 p.m. ET: The Cardinals just announced that Piscotty suffered a head contusion and is being transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
9:41 p.m. ET: Terrifying moment tonight in Pittsburgh, as Cardinals rookie Stephen Piscotty was carted off the field after a violent collision with teammate Peter Bourjos in left-center field.
Both players were going after a fly ball off the bat of the Pirates’ Josh Harrison in the bottom of the seventh inning. Bourjos made a sliding catch, but a diving Piscotty took a knee to the head/face in the process. You can watch the play here, but I’ll warn you that it’s very graphic. Bourjos immediately waved for help as Piscotty was motionless on the ground, apparently unconscious. PNC Park was silent as Piscotty was eventually moved to a stretcher in a neck brace. One piece of good news is that he waved to the crowd as he was being carted off the field.
We’ll pass along an update as soon as it is made available. Here’s hoping for the best.
Piscotty has been a key contributor for the Cardinals since his call-up in July, batting .310/.365/.502 with seven home runs and 39 RBI over 62 games.
Jonathan Papelbon has thrown his final pitch for the Nationals this season, as the team announced this afternoon that he has been suspended four games for Sunday’s incident with Bryce Harper. He has also dropped the appeal of his three-game suspension for hitting Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch.
While Papelbon’s season is over, his future with the Nationals is also in question. The Nationals guaranteed him $11 million for 2016 as a condition of his trade from the Phillies, so he is under contract. However, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was noncommittal when asked about Papelbon’s future after Monday’s game.
Here’s Rizzo on Papelbon, from Mark Zuckerman of CSNMA.com:
“He’s under contract,” the GM said. “We’re going to evaluate every moving part that we have after the season, and we’ll make all those decisions once the final out is made in 2015.”
For what it’s worth, Papelbon jerseys have been removed from the Nationals team store.