Tagged: Mark Melancon

Lackey Leads Cards To 4th Straight Win

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

Kolten Wong celebrates with teammates after scoring to put them ahead by a pair of runs.

The St. Louis Cardinals were 3-1 winners over the Arizona Diamondbacks last night, running their winning streak up to 4 games.

John Lackey improved to 11-8, throwing a steady 7 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 7 hits and a walk. Lackey served up a solo homer to slugger Paul Goldschmidt in the 1st and then tossed 6.1 shutout innings to finish off his day.

Kolten Wong‘s RBI double in the 7th inning broke a 1-1 tie and Matt Carpenter‘s RBI single plated Wong to pad the lead.  Since taking three games off to get his head straight, Wong has three hits in the last two nights.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 40th save of the season, joining Pirates closer Mark Melancon in that club. Rosenthal is out this weekend on paternity leave with his wife scheduled to be induced into labor tomorrow.

The Redbirds got more solid defense, turning 3 double plays.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates scored 6 in the 2nd inning en route to an easy 7-2 win over the Miami Marlins, winning for the 11th time in their last 14 games.

Andrew McCutchen had a pair of extra-base hits – his 20th homer and 32nd double – driving in 4 runs.

Jeff Locke (W 7-8) went 7 innings, allowing a pair of runs on 5 hits and a walk.  It snapped a 6-game streak in which Locke had failed to escape the 6th inning.  He had gone 1-2 with a 6.39 ERA in that stretch.

The Bucs remain 4.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.  September should provide plenty of drama with those two teams battling for the division title.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Chicago Cubs fell back to even in their series with the San Francisco Giants, falling 4-2 and snapping a 6-game winning streak.

Buster Posey hit an RBI double over the head of Chris Coghlan in right field to break a 2-2 tie in the 6th.

Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant each had a double and single, with Bryant driving in a pair of runs to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the 1st.

Even with the loss, the Cubs are still 21-5 in their last 26 games.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is feeling well after throwing a two inning simulated game and is hopeful to be back soon. He’s scheduled to throw another simulated game – this time three innings – on Sunday as he tries to work his way back into the rotation for the postseason run.

The often entertaining Adam Bittner of the Post-Gazette had a nice write-up on the use of Pirates “first baseman” Pedro Alvarez. Check it out over there.

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs.com wrote up 23-year-old Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, focusing on his improved handling of southpaws. Last year, Polanco had a slash line of .171/.222/.244 against left-handed pitchers. This year? .214/.275/.321. Still not great, but improving. FYI: His numbers against RHP are pretty similar between last year and this. By the way, both Polanco and Alvarez sat last night against the left-handed Chris Narveson. Read it.

Anthony Castrovince takes a look at 2015’s Most Impactful MLB Managers and, wouldn’t you know it, 3 of the top 6 are from the NL Central. The Bucs’ Clint Hurdle comes in at #6, the Cards’ Mike Matheny at #4 and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon is #1. Read it at Sports On Earth.

* * * * * * * * *

Joey Votto continues to have a monster season, upping his on-base percentage yet another 10 points this past week to hit .446 at the top of the NL Central Leader Board.

In 14 games played since August 12th, Votto has a .571 OBP to go along with a .372 AVG, .837 SLG, 1.409 OPS, 5 HR and 5 2B. That’s spanning 63 plate appearances. Unreal.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 81 45 W4
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 4.5 W1
Chicago Cubs 73 52 7.5 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 53 74 28.5 L4
Cincinnati Reds 52 73 28.5 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 76 49 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 73 52
San Francisco Giants 67 59 6.5
Washington Nationals 63 62 10.0

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

69-56 Dodgers Greinke (13-3, 1.67)
52-73 REDS DeSclafani (7-9, 3.97)
11:35 AM CT
73-52 CUBS Haren (8-8, 3.76)
67-59 Giants Bumgarner (15-6, 3.02)
2:45 PM CT
76-49 PIRATES Cole (14-7, 2.49)
51-76 Marlins Nicolino (2-1, 3.77)
6:10 PM CT
81-45 CARDINALS Martinez (12-6, 2.85)
62-64 Diamondbacks De La Rosa (11-5, 4.32)
8:40 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .446
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .400
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .396
Kris Bryant (CHC) .368
Jung Ho Kang (PIT) .364
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.98
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.09
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.12
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 1.13

Top Three Winners Again

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Kris Bryant hit another walk-off for the Cubs in a 2-1 win yesterday.

Well, this is starting to become quite routine, isn’t it?

I guess it shouldn’t surprise us, given that the top 3 in the division make up 3 of the top 4 teams in all of Major League Baseball, but still. Sometimes it seems ridiculous, but yet again we have The Big Three all coming out winners yesterday.

You start to wonder if the only time these teams lose is when they play each other.

Tell you what, let’s just throw the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs into the playoffs by themselves.

They can each play a 3-game home series against each other, making up a 12-game schedule. Whoever finishes with the best record advances to the World Series. We cool with that?

Sorry, I realize there’s no definite way any of these three teams even makes the National League Championship Series, let alone wins it.

The playoffs are such a crap-shoot. This is why you’ll hear folks who are a bit longer in the tooth complain about the de-valuing of the 162-game regular season that comes about by introducing more teams into the postseason.

Also, the fact that I just used the phrase “long in the tooth” should tell you something about my own age and feelings on the matter.

But I digress.

What I’m really trying to say is that it would be immeasurably fun to watch these three teams go at it, head-to-head, in the playoffs.

What we may very well end up with instead is one of them being eliminated immediately in a best-of-1 Wild Card game. And then the two survivors could get swept in a best-of-5 National League Divisional Series because, hey, it’s three games. That’s a small sample size. Even the 1927 New York Yankees had a pair of 3-game losing streaks. It happens.

I just don’t want this season to end, that’s all.

RESULTS!

* * * * * * * * *

The Cardinals scored 3 in the 7th to snap a 2-2 tie, ending the Arizona Diamondbacks winning streak with a 5-3 victory.

Tommy Pham inside-outed a single through the right side with men on the corners to put the Cards ahead. Yadier Molina brought two more home with a base hit into right and the Cards didn’t look back.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 39th save while Lance Lynn improved to 10-8 on the season.

Lynn got some help on defense, turning 4 double plays to help limit the damage that could have been done by Arizona.

Injured first baseman Matt Adams (remember him?) is possible to return from the disabled list next week. He wasn’t exactly tearing it up when he was healthy (.243/.281/.375), so it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle his return, particularly when rosters are going to be expanding to 40-man soon anyhow. Then there’s still Matt Holiday, Randal Grichuk, Jordan Walden, Jon Jay

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Jon Lester pitched brilliantly for 8.2 innings, only to be undone by his inability to field a ground ball as the Cleveland Indians tied up the Cubs 1-1 in the top of the 9th.

No matter.

Kris Bryant stepped up and hit the walk-off to right with two out in the bottom of the 9th. It was the highly-touted rookie’s 20th long ball of the season.

Also, props to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo who seems to make a highlight-reel fielding play every week. Yesterday afternoon, with a man on 1st, he sprinted in on a bunt in front of the plate down the first base line. Seeing the ball was going to roll foul, he slid along the line, stopping it from rolling foul so that he could scoop it up in fair territory and start a 3-6-4 double play. Amazing.

At the plate, Rizzo also had an RBI triple.

The Cubs also got some pretty slick fielding up the middle on other double plays, with Starlin Castro getting a start at short.

Chicago put right fielder Jorge Soler on the DL.  He’s expected back before the playoffs start, should the Cubs get there.  Soler has hit .265 with 7 HR and 42 RBI, striking out 111 times in 378 plate appearances.  It’s been a disappointing season, though he’s shown signs at times of snapping out of it.

It’s go time for the Cubs now, with a chance to really put some distance between themselves and the San Francisco Giants – they start a 3-game series in ‘Frisco this evening.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 5-2 with J.A. Happ putting up another strong outing since coming over at the trade deadline.

Happ (W 6-7) went 6 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and a walk while striking out 6.

Gregory Polanco had a four-hit game, including a pair of doubles.

Mark Melancon notched his 40th save with a perfect 9th.

Things got a bit tense with Miami pitchers coming up and in on Pirate batters no fewer than 6 times. An ejection was eventually made with no apparent retaliation on the part of Pittsburgh’s pitchers. Just win, I guess.

It’s hard to know where to start when looking at the Pirates recent trends. They’ve won 6 of 7, 10 of 12, 14 of 18… Anyway you look at it over the past month or so, they’ve been hot.

Injured starting pitcher A.J. Burnett was scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session yesterday in hopes of returning to the rotation.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Cincinnati Reds snapped a 9-game losing streak and are back in a virtual tie with the idle Milwaukee Brewers for last place in the division.

* * * * * * * * *

Some Leaderboard trends for you today.

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is up there now for the division batting title. Not so much that he’s been suddenly hitting the tar out of the ball. More that he’s playing so regularly that he now qualifies for the batting title. He has 382 plate appearances, exactly one more than he currently needs to qualify.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is on a 9-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .375 with 6 extra-base hits.

And in his last 7 games, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has had five 2-hit games. He’s batting .357 over that time frame with 3 extra-base hits.

Those guys have been hot enough to push Rizzo, Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips down in the leader board, but all three have actually hit well over the past week.

In his last two starts (small sample size alert!), Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez has a 5.56 ERA, allowing 14 hits in 11.1 innings of work. Martinez is at 148.2 innings this season, quite a bit more than last year’s mark of 112. Could he be starting to fray at the edges a bit? Something to keep an eye on during this stretch run, for sure.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 79 45 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 75 48 3.5 W3
Chicago Cubs 72 51 6.5 W5
Milwaukee Brewers 53 72 26.5 L2
Cincinnati Reds 52 71 26.5 W1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 75 48 +3.0
Chicago Cubs 72 51
San Francisco Giants 66 58 6.5
Washington Nationals 62 61 10.0
Arizona Diamondbacks 62 62 10.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

67-56 Dodgers Wood (8-8, 3.79)
52-71 REDS Lamb (0-1, 6.35)
6:10 PM CT
53-72 BREWERS Peralta (4-7, 4.48)
58-66 Indians Tomlin (1-1, 2.03)
6:10 PM CT
75-48 PIRATES Morton (8-4, 4.06)
50-75 Marlins Hand (3-3, 4.46)
6:10 PM CT
79-45 CARDINALS Garcia (5-4, 1.79)
62-62 Diamondbacks Ray (3-9, 3.38)
9:10 PM CT
72-51 CUBS Arrieta (15-6, 2.30)
66-58 Giants Cain (2-3, 5.66)
9:15 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

AVG
Joey Votto (CIN) .309
Francisco Cervelli (PIT) .303
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .297
Starling Marte (PIT) .292
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .291
ERA
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 2.30
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.49
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 2.62
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.80
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.85

Power Surge: Yadi Makes History

Yadier Molina homered for the 2nd time in 3 nights.

Yadier Molina homered for the 2nd time in 3 nights.

Yadier Molina‘s 100th career homer lifted the St. Louis Cardinals as they took the rubber game against the San Francisco Giants with a 4-3 win at home.

In the 7th, Tommy Pham sped from 3rd base to score the tying run, getting in ahead of a throw home with the infield playing in.

Molina, batting cleanup for the first time in 2015, hit his 4th homer of the season in the 8th inning, breaking a 3-3 tie. After going much of the season without a homer, the thinner version of Molina homered for the 2nd time in the series. He went 3-for-4 on the night.

Trevor Rosenthal pitched a spotless 9th, striking out a pair for his 38th save.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

J.A. Happ went 6 shutout innings to guide the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mark Melancon had 3 strikeouts in the 9th (all on curveballs) to collect save number 38.

Sean Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with an RBI out of the #8 spot in the lineup, helping to atone for a big error in last night’s game.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Make it three straight losses for the Chicago Cubs, who allowed double digit runs for the second straight night – the first time that’s happened to them this season.

If you want to know how bad things went for the Cubs, the Detroit Tigers starting pitcher homered to center field in his first career at bat in the majors.

To be fair, the wind was blowing straight out to center at 15 mph, but still.

The 15-8 loss to the Tigers knocked the Cubs 9 games back in the division, although the Giants’ loss to the Redbirds kept them with the same lead in the Wild Card chase.

Jon Lester (L 8-9) lasted just 2.2 innings, allowing 7 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks, serving up 3 homers.

If you’re a Cubs fan with an eye on the future, it will please you to know that the kids were alright. Kris Bryant hit his 17th homer in a 4-for-4 night and Kyle Schwarber hit his 10th. It was Schwarber’s 2nd straight game with a long ball.

There’s always next year, folks.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Leaderboard Trends

In his last 12 games, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli has a .429 on-base percentage.

In 16 August games, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has a .463 on-base percentage.

In contrast, Pirates infielder Jung-Ho Kang has a .233 OBP in his last 6 games. Since ending a recent 10-game hitting streak, Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter has a .250 OBP in his most recent 5 games.

Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano has a 1.75 WHIP in his last 4 starts. In that timeframe, he has gone 2-0 with a 5.82 ERA, allowing 29 hits in 21.2 innings of work.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 77 43 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 71 47 5.0 W2
Chicago Cubs 67 51 9.0 L3
Cincinnati Reds 51 67 25.0 L5
Milwaukee Brewers 52 70 26.0 W1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 71 47 +4.0
Chicago Cubs 67 51
San Francisco Giants 65 55 3.0
Washington Nationals 60 59 7.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

65-55 Giants Peavy (3-5, 4.18)
71-47 PIRATES Morton (7-4, 4.36)
6:05 PM CT
58-61 Diamondbacks Corbin (3-3, 3.43)
51-67 REDS Lamb (0-1, 7.50)
6:10 PM CT
53-67 Braves Foltynewicz (4-4, 5.61)
67-51 CUBS Arrieta (14-6, 2.39)
7:05 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .436
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .401
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .398
Francisco Cervelli (PIT) .375
Kris Bryant (CHC) .367
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.99
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.09
Michael Wacha (STL) 1.11
Dan Haren (CHC) 1.12

All-Star Game Results

Andrew McCutchen hit a line drive over the left field wall for a solo homer in last night's All-Star Game.

Andrew McCutchen hit a line drive over the left field wall for a solo homer in last night’s All-Star Game.

The American League was a 6-3 winner over the National League in the All-Star Game.

Here are the lines for players from the NL Central:

Chicago Cubs
Kris Bryant: 0-for-1, BB
Anthony Rizzo: 0-for-2

Cincinnati Reds
Aroldis Chapman: 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 SO
Todd Frazier: 0-for-3

Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Braun: 1-for-1, 3B, R
Francisco Rodriguez: 1 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 SO

Pittsburgh Pirates
Gerrit Cole: 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 SO
Andrew McCutchen: 1-for-3, HR, R, RBI, SO
Mark Melancon: 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 2 SO

St. Louis Cardinals
Yadier Molina: 1-for-1
Jhonny Peralta: 1-for-1, RBI, BB

Your highlights were McCutchen with a solo homer in the 6th inning and Chapman striking out the side in the 9th. The American League bench’s reaction to Chapman’s 103 mph fastball was pretty great.

Back to business on Thursday!

Cubs Sweep Twin-Bill Against Cards

Jake Arrieta pitched strong in the opening game of a double-header sweep for the Chicago Cubs.

Jake Arrieta pitched strong in the opening game of a double-header sweep for the Chicago Cubs.

You disappear for a few days of vacation, come back, and everything looks a little different.

Not hugely different, maybe. Just different.

For example, before heading away for a little rest and relaxation, I fully expected to start focusing more on the National League Wild Card and less on the National League Central.

But things have taken a bit of a turn and the race seems back on. For the moment, anyhow.

We’ll put off bringing the Wild Card into the discussion for just a little bit longer, although your #2 and 3 teams in the division here have pretty decent leads in that race, particularly with the San Francisco Giants having recently lost a whole mess of games.

Let’s dive back in as we usually do here, getting into yesterday’s recaps.

* * * * * * * * *

Coming into yesterday’s day-night double-header, the Chicago Cubs had lost 5 straight to the St. Louis Cardinals and were just 2-8 against them this season.

So it was a bit surprising to see them sweep the Cards, winning 7-4 behind Jake Arrieta‘s 9th win in the afternoon and then 5-3 with a little bit of luck in the night game.

The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo went 2-for-3 with his 16th homer and a pair of walks in the opening game.

The Cards’ Tim Cooney went 5.1 innings, allowing one run on 3 hits and a walk in the second game, leaving with a 2-1 lead. But the Cubs rattled off 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th, en route to the win.

Game two was a wild one, with Dallas Beeler getting called up and starting for Chicago, going 5-plus strong innings. Beeler, a 41st round draft pick, was only ranked the Cubs’ #24 prospect by Baseball America following the 2013 season.

The big play came with Chicago down 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th with 2 men on and 1 out. Addison Russell faced Seth Maness, hitting a grounder down the 1st base line for a game-tying single. Pretty much everybody on the Cards thought the ball went foul. But the umps ruled it fair. Maness was tossed from the game and Mike Matheny came out to argue for a while.

It was a strange play, as Russell’s grounder hit foul just in front of the plate, then appeared to cross just fair (maybe?) as it came over the first base bag, then veered back foul afterwards. Whole lot of English on that ball…

On the next play, Dexter Fowler hit a grounder back to new pitcher Kevin Siegrist, who turned to try to start an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play, instead throwing it into center field for an error that allowed Chicago to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Jason Motte started the 9th with a 3-run lead, putting the first two Cardinals batters on base, eventually allowing a run and putting the tying run on base before retiring Matt Carpenter on a foul pop out to third and Jhonny Peralta on a 6-4 fielder’s choice.

The Cubs have won 7 of their last 9 games.

Game Highlights (MLB.com) – Game 1

Game Highlights (MLB.com) – Game 2

In other Cardinals’ news, left fielder Matt Holliday is hoping to be brought back from the DL for this weekend’s series against the Pirates. Meanwhile, Kolten Wong left the opening game after taking a tumble chasing after a wind-blown pop up, forcing him from the game with signs of a concussion.

* * * * * * * * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the San Diego Padres, 3-2, led by Gregory Polanco‘s tie-breaking RBI triple in the bottom of the 8th inning.

Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless 9th for his 28th save. That’s now 26 straight appearances going back to May 15th without a run allowed. 25.2 innings of work, 16 hits, 4 walks, 20 strikeouts, 1 win, 20 saves.

Francisco Liriano went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk, striking out 6.

The Bucs have won 7 of their last 8 and 9 of their last 11. On June 28th, they were 9 games back. Now? Half that.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

* * * * * * * * *

Johnny Cueto continues to look like potential game-changing bait for the upcoming trade deadline, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-0 win over the Washington Nationals while out-dueling Max Scherzer.

Cueto went the distance, striking out 11 while allowing just 2 hits and a walk in a 122-pitch shutout. He’s 6-5 with a 2.61 ERA this season.

His Game Score of 93 tied a career best and the elbow looked just fine, hitting 95 mph routinely with his fastball. Cueto has allowed 1 run in 17 innings of work across his last two starts.

Joey Votto went 3-for-5 with his 15th homer and a double, driving in 3 runs.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

* * * * * * * * *

The Milwaukee Brewers lost 4-3 at home to the Atlanta Braves.

Khris Davis was brought back from the 15-day DL after having surgery to remove cartilage from his right knee. Davis, who was hitting .250 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 46 games, took over in left field for Gerardo Parra, who is hitting .309 with 8 HR. Parra also had a stretch of six straight games with multiple hits. Make of that what you will.

Aramis Ramirez went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, also grounding into a double play as his batting average fell to .237 in his farewell season.

Game Highlights (MLB.com)

* * * * * * * * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 54 30 L2
Pittsburgh Pirates 49 34 4.5 W4
Chicago Cubs 46 37 7.5 W2
Cincinnati Reds 38 44 15.0 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 36 50 19.0 L2

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

42-42 Braves Teheran (6-4, 4.60)
36-50 BREWERS Fiers (4-7, 3.83)
1:10 PM CT
38-44 REDS Lorenzen (3-3, 3.58)
46-38 Nationals Gonzalez (6-4, 4.16)
6:05 PM CT
39-47 Padres Cashner (3-9, 4.06)
49-34 PIRATES Morton (6-2, 4.30)
6:05 PM CT
54-30 CARDINALS Wacha (10-3, 2.66)
46-37 CUBS Hammel (5-4, 2.89)
7:05 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 25
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 16
Ryan Braun (MIL) 15
Adam Lind (MIL) 15
Joey Votto (CIN) 15
Strikeouts
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 119
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 114
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 113
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 111
Carlos Martinez (STL) 105

One Big Inning All Pirates Need

Francisco Cervelli has given Pirates fans cause to forget Russell Martin.

Francisco Cervelli has given Pirates fans cause to forget Russell Martin.

Did you know that if you ranked all 15 National League teams by winning percentage, the NL Central has the top 3 teams?

And if you did the same for all 30 Major League teams, the NL Central has 3 of the top 5?

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 7-6 winners over the visiting Cincinnati Reds, scoring all their runs in the 4th inning.

The Bucs sent 10 men to the plate in the inning, highlighted by Francisco Cervelli‘s 3-run homer that tied the game at 4-4 and Andew McCutchen‘s 2-run tater that put Pittsburgh ahead by 3 runs.

Tony Watson struck out the side in the 8th and Mark Melancon did the same in the 9th to pick up his 24th save. That’s 19 straight appearances now, spanning 19.1 innings, without allowing a run. MM has 16 saves in that stretch.

Starling Marte made a pair of highlight reel plays in left field, helping the Pirates snap a 3-game losing streak, having been swept by the Washington Nationals over the weekend.

Neil Walker made his first start in 5 days, having sat out with hip pain.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Chicago Cubs continued to hold their own against division leaders, this time beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 in 10 innings on Chris Denorfia‘s walk-off sacrifice fly to deep center field.

The Cubs loaded the bases to start the bottom of the 10th. Addison Russell inside-outed a grounder to Adrian Gonzalez at first base which was nearly muffed, but then recovered for a 3-2 fielder’s choice. Denorfia then followed up by connecting on a 1-1 cutter into center field that carried deep enough for the speedy Matt Szczur to score easily.

No win, but Jason Hammel was solid, throwing 7.2 shutout innings and allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out 6.

The win was Chicago’s 4th straight.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Another day, another win for the St. Louis Cardinals, who scored 4 unanswered runs in the middle innings to win 4-3 visiting the Miami Marlins.

Jason Heyward put the birds on the board first, picking up his 8th homer of the year in the 4th inning. He’s homered in 3 of his last 5 games now and is hitting .500/.520/.958 in his past 6 games. Heyward was looking like a bust of a signing, batting just .211/.268/.333 through May 3rd. Since then? 42 games in which he’s hit .320/.350/.503 with 15 extra base hits.

A 2-RBI double into the left field corner by Xavier Scruggs tied the game up.

Mark Reynolds‘ base hit off of pitcher Sam Dyson with two out and the bases loaded in the 7th broke the 3-3 tie.

Trevor Rosenthal came on to pitch the 9th, ending the game by getting Dee Gordon to ground into a 4-3 double play.

Jhonny Peralta had a rough night, going 0-for-5, striking out 3 times and grounding into double plays in his other two plate appearances.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the New York Mets, 3-2, aided by an error in left field by Michael Cuddyer who allowed a carom off the wall to get past him and allow the go-ahead run to score in the 7th.

Mike Fiers went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and a pair of walks with 7 strikeouts.

Carlos Gomez started in center field for the first time in 9 days, going 1-for-2 with a walk.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 45 24 L1
Pittsburgh Pirates 39 30 6.0 L3
Chicago Cubs 38 30 6.5 W3
Cincinnati Reds 32 36 12.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 25 46 21.0 L2

* * *

Schedule

32-37 REDS Leake (4-4, 4.01)
40-30 PIRATES Cole (11-2, 1.78)
6:05 PM CT
46-24 CARDINALS Garcia (2-3, 1.76)
30-42 Marlins Latos (2-4, 5.37)
6:10 PM CT
39-33 Dodgers Bolsinger (4-2, 2.87)
39-30 CUBS Hendricks (2-3, 4.28)
7:05 PM CT
36-36 Mets Colon (9-5, 4.81)
26-46 BREWERS Nelson (3-8, 4.64)
7:10 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 23
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 15
Ryan Braun (MIL) 14
Joey Votto (CIN) 14
2-way tie 12
Strikeouts
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 105
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 97
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 96
Carlos Martinez (STL) 94
Jason Hammel (CHC) 92

Pirates Run Win Streak To 8

Mark Melancon has been lights out.

Mark Melancon has been lights out.

Sure, it’s only beating up on the Chicago White Sox – a team that has struggled mightily in 2015 and has now lost seven straight games – but the Pittsburgh Pirates will still take it.

The Bucs’ winning streak was extended to 8 games after a 3-2 win last night, led once again by ace Gerrit Cole.

Cole improved to 11-2 on the year with a 1.78 ERA, allowing 2 runs in 7 innings of work on 3 hits and 3 walks.

Five Pirates had multi-hit games, including a 3-for-3 night by Corey Hart at DH.

Another spotless inning for closer Mark Melancon, who picked up his 23rd save, striking out a pair in the 9th. He has not allowed a run since May 11th, posting a 0.00 ERA in his last 18 appearances (18.1 IP); if you bump that back to games from April 23rd onwards, his ERA is 0.33 across his last 27 games (27.1 IP).

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The St. Louis Cardinals offense continued to stall as they dropped their second in a row, losing 2-1 against the Minnesota Twins.

All three runs in the game came on solo homers, with Jason Heyward (6th) putting the Cards up 1-0 in the top of the 7th, only to have Joe Mauer tie it up in the bottom of the 8th and Kennys Vargas win it in the 9th.

The homers were allowed by Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Villanueva, respectively.

The Cards have gone 12 straight games scoring 4 or fewer runs. Of course, they’ve also gone 7 straight games allowing 3 or fewer.

Jaime Garcia went 6 shutout innings as he continues to pitch lights out since getting called up to the rotation. He’s sporting a 1.76 ERA in 6 starts thus far, though has just a 2-3 record to show for it. In fact, the St. Louis offense has been shut out in three of Garcia’s six starts. Consider his numbers on a high-powered team – he’d likely be more like 5-0 right now.

Mark Reynolds has some pop in his bat, but his obscene strike out rates really hurt the Cardinals in Thursday night’s contest. In the top of the 9th of a tie game with Matt Carpenter on 3rd base and one out, Reynolds struck out flailing at a pitch well off the plate.  Yadier Molina then flew out routinely to right field to end the inning.

Carpenter had a pair of doubles and is 5-for-11 during a 3-game hitting streak.

The second straight loss for the Redbirds coupled with the Bucs’ winning streak means their lead in the NL Central is down to 4 games heading into Friday.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Chicago Cubs were 4-3 losers against the Cleveland Indians in a game with multiple rain delays.

Hammel lasted just 4 innings, having run his pitch count up to 86 already. He allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 2 hits and a pair of walks, striking out 6.  An hour-long rain delay in the top of the 5th led to a shortened night of work.

Kyle Schwarber had another great night at the plate, showing some hustle on the bases that is unexpected for a guy who looks like a tank. He also popped an opposite-field homer; the first of his MLB career.

Without a position he can really play regularly with any aptitude at the Major League level, he’s still getting sent down after inter-league play is over. But he’s definitely shown he can mash with the big boys. He has a nice short swing and the ball comes off his bat like it’s shot out of a cannon. He’ll head to AAA after this weekend.

The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs after the Schwarber homer, and then the rain fell.  When the game resumed, Cody Allen came on to pitch and got Miguel Montero to fly out to left, erasing the threat.

Kris Bryant extended his hitting streak to 14 games.  He’s batting .351 with 5 doubles during this stretch of games.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds game against the visiting Detroit Tigers was called on account of rain sweeping across Ohio.

Recently injured starting pitcher Jon Moscot is undergoing surgery to repair his dislocated left (non-throwing) shoulder. Having gone 1-1 with a 4.63 ERA across three starts, Moscot should be out the rest of the season and good to go for 2016.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers lost their 6th straight (ho hum), defeated 3-2 to the Kansas City Royals.

K.C. took an early 3-0 lead on starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson (L 3-8, 5 IP, 3 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 0 SO), then allowed Milwaukee to creep back into the game, only to come up short.

Down by one, Milwaukee loaded the bases in the top of the 8th inning, only to have Aramis Ramirez pop out and Scooter Gennett strike out looking at a Wade Davis curveball in the middle of the plate.

Carlos Gomez (hip) was out of the lineup again. He’s played in only 3 of the Brew Crew’s last 9 games.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 43 23 L2
Pittsburgh Pirates 39 27 4.0 W8
Chicago Cubs 35 29 7.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 30 35 12.5 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 24 44 20.0 L6

* * *

Schedule

39-27 PIRATES Burnett (6-2, 1.89)
34-33 Nationals Ross (1-1, 3.46)
6:05 PM CT
43-23 CARDINALS Lyons (1-0, 5.00)
23-45 Phillies Aumont (NR)
6:05 PM CT
29-39 Marlins Haren (6-3, 3.22)
30-35 REDS Leake (3-4, 4.35)
6:10 PM CT
35-29 CUBS Hendricks (2-2, 3.80)
36-30 Twins Hughes (4-6, 4.79)
7:10 PM CT
24-44 BREWERS Jungmann (1-1, 2.25)
28-38 Rockies De La Rosa (4-2, 4.91)
7:40 PM CT

* * *

NL Central Leaders

WAR (fielders)
Todd Frazier (CIN) 3.7
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 2.8
Joey Votto (CIN) 2.7
Jhonny Peralta (CIN) 2.4
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) 2.2
WAR (pitchers)
A.J. Burnett (PIT) 2.7
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.5
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.3
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.0
2-way tie 1.8