PITTSBURGH (AP) — Oneil Cruz finished a home run short of the cycle, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat St. Louis 8-2 on Friday night to keep the Cardinals from stretching their lead atop the NL Central.
Cruz had a two-run triple, a double and an RBI single to extend his hitting streak to six games, matching the rookie’s longest in the majors. The 23-year-old is 12 for 26 (.462) with two homers, two triples and two doubles during the streak.
“It feels great,” Cruz said. “That’s what we’re working for. That’s what I’m working for, diligently, every day, whether it’s early hitting or just coming to the field and getting work done.”
Albert Pujols entered as a pinch hitter for the Cardinals and went 0 for 2. The 42-year-old remained at 695 home runs with 23 games remaining in his final big league season.
NL batting leader Paul Goldschmidt was 1 for 4, dropping his average to .327.
“We had several opportunities there to get going offensively,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It just didn’t happen. We had guys up that we wanted. Unfortunately, we’ve had a little stretch where we’ve struggled to come up with the big hit.”
St. Louis has lost three of five while playing the Pirates and Washington Nationals but maintained a sizable lead over the second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.
Roansy Contreras (5-4) gave up one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh. The rookie right-hander has allowed four runs in 23 1/3 innings over his past four starts.
“I’m really glad with the results that I’m getting,” Contreras said. “I think a lot of it comes from the work ethic, the work I’ve been putting in, my routine, a lot of the information I’m getting from the coaching staff and just from our game plan, the communication I have with our catcher. Just a lot of things that are going on that are helping me learn a lot, grow a lot.”
Cruz’s opposite-field triple Cruz off Miles Mikolas (11-11) to the left-field notch made it 3-0 in the fifth, and Cruz scored on Bryan Reynolds’ single.
Mikolas gave up four runs and eight hits in five innings with eight strikeouts.
“I was a lot in the zone tonight,” he said. “Defense made some great plays, got me out of it. Kind of saw one tough pitch there in the fifth. Didn’t put a ball (to Cruz) where I needed to, scored a couple runs there.”
Ben Gamel put the Pirates ahead in the second with his eighth homer a solo drive on a changeup.
Goldschmidt doubled leading off the sixth and scored on Corey Dickerson’s groundout.
Tommy Edman had an RBI double in the seventh, cutting the deficit to 4-2.
Michael Chavis hit Pittsburgh’s second two-run triple into the left-field notch in the eighth and scored on Mitchell’s single. Oneil Cruz followed with a single that had an exit velocity of 117.7 mph.
“I think it’s just swinging at the right pitches,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of Cruz. “When he hits the ball, he hits the ball hard all the time. We can sit here and talk about that every night when he makes contact.”
SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
The Cardinals ended the seventh inning with a 9-2-5-2-9 double play, starting with a single from Rodolfo Castro to right. Reynolds hesitated after rounding third, allowing Lars Nootbaar’s throw to beat him home. Catcher Andrew Knizner hit Reynolds in the back with his throw to third. Reynolds was then caught in a rundown. Castro headed toward third, but was thrown out at second while trying to retreat.
Cardinals: OF Tyler O’Neill returned to the lineup after being held out of Thursday with neck stiffness.
RHP Jack Flaherty (0-1, 4.15 ERA) will take the mound for the Cardinals and RHP JT Brubaker (3-11, 4.35) for the Pirates. Flaherty (right shoulder) returned from the injured list Monday, allowing one run and six hits with six strikeouts in five innings against Washington. Brubaker has given up three runs or fewer in four of his past five starts.
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