No safe ground: Cardinals' bats unlucky, fall to Pirates 5-3 -

No safe ground: Cardinals' bats unlucky, fall to Pirates 5-3

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) -- Baseball can be a confusing and cruel game, and the Cardinals- so often blessed in the postseason- caught the sharp edge of misfortune Sunday night.

Despite an ugly first inning, the St. Louis appeared constantly on the edge of breaking out, but a string of unlucky trajectories ultimately wrote the storyline in Game 3.  

Finally able to decipher Francisco Liriano, the Redbirds registered two runs and pushed him from the game in six innings. Prior to Sunday, the Pittsburgh lefty posted a .75 ERA against them.

More telling than the runs, the Cards finally seemed to see the ball well, and made solid contact nearly all game. 

Matt Adams took a ball to the track to end the second inning, and Pete Kozma (0-9 against Liriano prior) doubled in the third. A hit batsman and a walk later, the Cards were threatening. Just as the Pirates pitcher appeared mortal, Holliday lined to the wall in right to end the inning. 

"We had a couple real good opportunities," said Mike Matheny after the game. "We hit a few hard at them in key situations we could have turned things around."

More hard shots came in the fourth, as Yadier Molina lined to short, David Freese lined to right and Adams scorched a ball on the ground to Clint Barmes. 

Throughout the day, Cardinal hitters seemed just inches away. With each improbable out, the Pirates faithful seemingly ramped the volume up another decibel. As the sound inside PNC Park continued build, it began to feel almost impossible to break through. 

Liriano gave the Cards a freebie, getting behind six straight batters in the fifth. The baseball gods relented, and Beltran tied the game with a single after getting ahead 3-0. Holliday would again end the inning.  

The fortune was short-lived, as Molina, Freese and Adams once again could not find any space for their hard shots, and were retired in order after two more line outs and hard grounder the next inning. 

In the eighth, Beltran once again defied the will of baseball's powers that be, and put a shot over the fence in right center; seemingly the only place a ball could land safely for the Cardinals. For the first time, the crowd fell silent.

It was a brief respite from the roars as Beltran's run would be the final time a Cardinal crossed the plate. 

In the eighth, Pedro Alvarez once again crushed the Cards, sending the go-ahead run in with a single. Russell Martin got the insurance run and the Redbirds failed to plate a run in the ninth, though they did line out to short again for good measure. 

"We had a couple big at bats where if even a pitch here or there could have gone our way it would have been a different situation," said Matheny. "Unfortunately we couldn't stack them on on top of another."

Michael Wacha will take the mound in a do-or-die Game 4 Monday afternoon. 


JJ Bailey covers the Cardinals for and the BaseballStL app. Follow him on twitter @TheJJBailey and on @baseballstl_app for updates. 

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