The Pittsburgh Pirates will be seeking to complete one of the most stunning sweeps of the season when they try to take down the host St. Louis Cardinals for a third consecutive time on Sunday afternoon.
The last-place team in the National League Central, Pittsburgh has gotten surprisingly strong starting pitching in 4-0 and 5-4 victories over the third-place Cardinals in the first two games of the series.
Left-hander Steven Brault (0-1, 1.84 ERA) will try to make it three in a row for the Pirates, who were swept three straight at home by the Cardinals earlier this month, outscored by a total of 15-7.
Brault pitched the first game of the series, suffering the loss in a 4-1 defeat despite allowing just two runs and five hits in five innings.
After having missed the first four months of the season with a strained lat and starting for just the third time, Brault rebounded from the loss with 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his last start. He did not get a decision in a 2-1 loss.
In the 29-year-old’s three starts this season, the Pirates have scored a total of just four runs and lost all three despite the opponent putting up a total of just 10, three against Brault.
The sixth-year Pirate has faced the Cardinals 13 times in his career, seven times as a starter. He’s gone 1-3 in those games with a 4.81 ERA.
He has a generally positive history against Cardinals sluggers Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, holding them to a combined 5-for-23. Goldschmidt has homered twice in 20 plate appearances against Brault, Arenado once in six.
Among the highlights of the Pirates’ first two wins of the series was the ninth-inning performance of new closer David Bednar in Saturday’s victory.
Seeking the first save of his career, he allowed a leadoff single to Tommy Edman before successfully navigating Goldschmidt, Arenado and Tyler O’Neill.
Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton noted he had seen similar performances before, just not in save situations.
“Sometimes the highest leverage situation in a game is not the ninth inning,” he claimed. “It’s coming in and getting guys out, and David’s done a really nice job in those situations.”
The Cardinals will turn to veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright (11-7, 3.26) in an effort to stay relevant in the Central and NL wild-card races, where they have fallen 12 and 4 1/2 games off the pace, respectively.
Wainwright shut out the Pirates on two hits in a 4-0 win on Aug. 11, before seeing a four-game winning streak end at the hands of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in a tough, 2-0 loss on Tuesday.
The shutout was the 11th of Wainwright’s career, his first since 2016. Teammate Harrison Bader says the 16-year veteran, who will turn 40 on Aug. 30, remains a sight to behold.
“There’s just an incredible amount of will, will to succeed, will to prove you wrong,” Bader boasted. “There’s just a will every day he toes the rubber, and it’s something that I have admired every time. He has nothing really to prove to anybody, but he’s still doing it because he loves this game. That’s where I want to be.”
Wainwright has beaten the Pirates more than any other team in his career, running up a 19-7 record with a 3.95 ERA in 45 games, including 39 starts.
–Field Level Media