Cardinals-Pirates Preview


The Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping an emphatic win over a team they're chasing in the wild-card race can revive their playoff push.

The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping one game in the standings was the only major casualty in their disheartening defeat.

The Cardinals will be without Yadier Molina for Wednesday night's final meeting of the season with the Pirates after he was leveled in a play at the plate the night before.

Molina exited Tuesday's 9-0 loss after injuring his back, neck and left shoulder in a collision with Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison in the second inning. Harrison, who was trying to score from second base on a Jose Tabata single, lowered his left shoulder into Molina's head as he barreled into the four-time All Star catcher. Molina fell over backward, yet held onto the ball for the out.

"I never saw the guy coming,'' Molina said. "I was concentrating on catching the ball. I never saw him coming, but the real pain was in my head."

Molina complained of headaches and is listed as day-to-day. The team recalled catcher Bryan Anderson from Triple-A Memphis as insurance.

The Cardinals (71-58) cannot afford to be without Molina, who leads the team with a .325 average and is considered one of baseball's best defensive catchers, with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles close behind in the wild-card race. Their lead over the Pirates dropped to two games, while they're 2 1/2 up on the Dodgers.

The Cardinals and Pirates have split their 14 games, and should they finish the regular season with the same record the team with the head-to-head edge would host a potential tiebreaker.

While St. Louis' psyche could be a bit shaken, Pittsburgh is suddenly brimming with confidence following its most lopsided win since the All-Star break.

"It can spark a team,'' manager Clint Hurdle said. "But it will be up to us to play better baseball than we've played lately.''

The Pirates (69-60) won for the sixth time in 19 games and are in position to win just their second series of the month. They took two of three in St. Louis from Aug. 17-19.

Pedro Alvarez led the way Tuesday with a pair of long homers and drove in four runs. The third baseman, who leads the team with 25 homers, has crushed St. Louis pitching, batting .389 with six home runs and 20 RBIs.

Alvarez is 0 for 2 with a walk against scheduled starter Joe Kelly (4-5, 3.26 ERA), who is returning to the rotation to take the place of the struggling Lance Lynn.

After Lynn was knocked around for four runs in two innings Friday in Cincinnati, Kelly came in and limited the Reds to a run in three innings to earn an 8-5 win. That was Kelly's second straight relief appearance after he gave up a run in 5 2-3 innings in the 19-inning loss to the Pirates on Aug. 19 - his only game in the series.

Prior to these relief appearances, the rookie right-hander had worked exclusively as a starter, allowing three runs or fewer in 11 of 12 starts.

The Pirates counter with Wandy Rodriguez (8-13, 4.01), who is 1-4 with a 4.86 ERA in six games - five starts - since being acquired from Houston on July 24. His lone win came in the 19-inning game.

Following that outing, the left-hander gave up three runs, six hits and four walks in 6 2-3 innings of Friday's 6-5 loss to Milwaukee. He dropped to 0-7 with a 5.70 ERA in eight starts since the break.

This will be his first start of the season against the Cardinals. He's 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in his last three outings versus St. Louis.