At this point in the year, the St. Louis Cardinals will take any series win they can find as they try to scratch and claw their way into the postseason. Taking 2 of 3 from a divisional foe is certainly better than the alternative.

Still, the nature of today’s 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates is a frustrating one. The Cardinals were just 3 of 14 with runners in scoring position today, and routinely struggled to bring in runners on third with less than two outs.

Marcell Ozuna opened up the scoring in the first inning with an RBI single to left, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. But the lead was short-lived, and the Pirates quickly tied the game in the second inning on a sacrifice fly. The following inning, the Pirates took a 2-1 lead on an RBI from Jordan Luplow.

Arguably the most frustrating moment of the game happened in the bottom of the third, when Cardinals starter Daniel Poncedeleon got his first career hit in the form of a leadoff triple down the third base line. He became the first Cardinals pitcher since Todd Worrell to earn his first hit via triple.

What followed was Matt Carpenter lining out to first, Tyler O’Neill popping out to short, and Matt Adams flying out to right to leave Ponce stranded.

On the mound, Poncedeleon pitched pretty well, striking out seven batters over five innings of work. The offense, meanwhile, simply couldn’t pick up the slack against Jameson Taillon, who only allowed four hits in seven innings.

The Cardinals were hurt the most today by Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings (the son of former Pitt and Vanderbilt basketball coach Kevin Stallings), who drove in three of Pittsburgh’s runs, including a two-run RBI single in the sixth off of Mike Mayers.

Once Taillon left the game after the seventh, the Cardinals mounted a rally, but much like the rest of the game, the comeback was riddled with missed scoring chances and runners left on base. Carson Kelly and Paul DeJong both reached base with nobody out in the eighth, but the Cardinals only scored one run in the inning on a fielder’s choice, and Ozuna grounded out with runners at the corners. 4-2 Pirates.

In the ninth, the Cardinals drew within a run when Patrick Wisdom drove in Yairo Munoz to make it 4-3 Pirates with runners at the corners and one out. DeJong then struck out, bringing up Matt Carpenter with the tying run 90 feet from home. With squirrels and salsa connoisseurs looking on what could be an MVP moment, Carpenter worked a full count and…struck out looking. Game over, Pirates win 4-3.

The Redbirds (81-65) now have just a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second NL Wild Card spot, which makes this weekend’s four game series between the Cards and Dodgers at Busch Stadium all the more critical.

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