PITTSBURGH — Cardinals rookie Dylan Carlson’s three-run homer capped a six-run outburst in the sixth inning against the mistake-prone Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night, helping lift St. Louis to a 7-2 victory and a doubleheader sweep.
The Cardinals took the opener 6-5 behind home runs from Kolten Wong and Tyler O’Neill and just enough pitching to overcome four errors.
St. Louis, playing its third doubleheader in five days, moved to .500 (24-24) with the win to remain in the mix for a playoff spot.
Andrew Miller (1-1) struck out the side in the top of the sixth to earn the win when the Pirates — playing as the road team on the scoreboard because the game served as a makeup for a postponement earlier in the season due to a COVID-19 outbreak with the Cardinals — self-destructed in the bottom of the inning.
Chad Kuhl (1-3) cruised through five innings but things fell apart in the sixth. Kuhl walked Tommy Edman leading off the inning and Paul Goldschmidt reached on catcher’s interference. Brad Miller then walked on four pitches to load the bases, chasing Kuhl.
Paul DeJong tied it at 2 with a sacrifice fly against reliever Chris Stratton and St. Louis took the lead when Pittsburgh rookie third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes threw wide of home trying to get Goldschmidt at the plate on a grounder by O’Neill. Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell’s attempt to turn a double-play on a grounder by Matt Carpenter ended up with the ball sailing into left field.
Carlson, called up on Friday for a second stint with the Cardinals after hitting just .162 in 23 games earlier in the second, sent Stratton’s offering over the wall in right-center for his second major league home run.
All six runs in the inning were unearned as the Pirates lost for the 10th time in 11 games. Bryan Reynolds hit a long home run off St. Louis starter Daniel Ponce de Leon that ended up in the Allegheny River but otherwise the Pirates mustered little offense while falling to a major-league worst 15-36.
Wong started Game 1 with his second career leadoff home run. O’Neill added a two-run shot in the third off Trevor Williams (1-8) and St. Louis escaped when the Pirates left the bases loaded in the seventh.
HELSLEY’S MEMORABLE MOMENT
Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley picked up the first save of his career in Game 1, recording the final two outs in the seventh that featured a little bit of everything.
With two outs and no one on, umpires were forced to review the pitch sequence to Kevin Newman after plate ump Jordan Baker apparently lost track of the count.
“I’m pretty sure they got mixed up and they didn’t know if there was one ball or one strike,” Helsley said. “I guess I walked him. I thought it was 3-2, too, but got caught up in the game.”
Newman walked and Erik Gonzalez reached on shortstop Paul DeJong’s second throwing error. Helsley walked pinch-hitter Josh Bell to load the bases but retired John Ryan Murphy on a flyball to end it following a brief pep talk from catcher Yadier Molina.
“Yadi came out and was like, ‘Just attack this guy and put our best foot forward,’” Helsley said. “And that’s what we did.”
After scratching out all of four hits in their previous 18 innings combined, the Cardinals managed eight in seven innings against Williams and three relievers to overcome some sloppy defense.
Al Reyes (2-1) picked up the victory in relief of starter Carlos Martinez.
Williams saw his ERA rise to 6.70 after allowing six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings. He is 1-11 in his last 12 decisions dating back to September 2019.
Cardinals: Placed RHP Dakota Hudson on the 10-day injured list with a strained right forearm. Hudson left his start on Thursday night after two innings due to what he described as discomfort in his right arm. He went 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts. St. Louis added RH reliever Nabil Crismatt to take Hudson’s roster spot.
Cardinals: Rookie pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim (2-0, 0.63 ERA) will take a 14-inning scoreless streak into Saturday’s game.
Pirates: opening day starter Joe Musgrove (0-5, 5.74) will try to pick up his first victory since Sept. 26, 2019.