PITTSBURGH (AP) — Francisco Cervelli hit his fourth home run of the season as part of a two-RBI effort in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 6-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
He hit just five homers in all of 2017.
It’s been quite a strong start for the 32-year-old. Through the Pirates’ first 27 games, he leads the team in RBIs with 20, is second in home runs and batting average (.307) and on-base percentage (.393).
Cervelli credits the hot start to finally being healthy after a year and a half of near-constant maladies. He had hamate bone surgery in 2016, an injury that takes a long time to fully heal. In 2017, he suffered multiple concussions, groin, foot, quadriceps and wrist injuries that all cost him playing time.
“I’m healthy, that’s the most important thing,” Cervelli said. “I’m very blessed that now my body is responding well and I’m here playing hard every day.”
Cervelli started the Pirates scoring in the second inning with a solo home, then came through as part of a big effort against in the St. Louis bullpen.
St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty (0-1) started the sixth inning with back-to-back walks before being lifted for Dominic Leone. Josh Bell hit an RBI single and Cervelli’s fly ball to center scored Starling Marte to give Pittsburgh its first lead of the game.
The Pirates added on against the Cardinals’ bullpen in the seventh. Pinch-hitter David Freese had a sacrifice fly and Corey Dickerson singled in Sean Rodriguez.
Colin Moran scored on Jose Martinez’s error on a Gregory Polanco grounder in the eighth.
It was the second consecutive night the Pirates waited out the St. Louis starter to pile on to the bullpen. They came back from a 5-0 defect to win 6-5 on Friday.
“I just liked our approach,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We got some pitches to hit that we didn’t hit. Flaherty was very quick. The fastball had some life to it. . It was tough to crack him early, but we just stayed steadfast with the approach.”
Flaherty was charged with three runs and four hits in five-plus innings. The rookie right-hander struck out two and walked four.
Pirates starter Trevor Williams (4-1) pitched six innings of two-run ball. Michael Feliz, George Kontos and Edgar Santana combined for three scoreless innings in relief.
Cardinals reliever Mike Mayers was called for a quick pitch in strange circumstance in the sixth inning. Mayers had a 1-2 count on Moran and threw a 95-mph fastball that Moran hit into center field for what appeared to be a fly out.
But home plate umpire Gabe Morales called a quick pitch on Mayers, despite no one being on base. Mayers was charged with a ball and eventually walked Moran.
“It’s a shame,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “The hitter was ready. I just don’t think the umpire was ready. Quick pitched him. I don’t think that’s in the rulebook. The hitter’s obviously ready or he’s not going to put a 95 mph fastball in play. . I would imagine that they could call time and say no pitch, but he wanted to call quick pitch. Must’ve been practicing that at home.”
Flaherty was re-called from Triple-A Memphis to start in place of injured right-hander Adam Wainwright (elbow inflammation), while OF Tyler O’Neill was optioned to the minors. O’Neill was 0 for 7 with three strikeouts since first being recalled on April 19.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (shoulder strain) will make his first rehab start with Class A Bradenton on Tuesday. He’s expected to throw three innings. Musgrove has been on the disabled list since March 30. . 2B Josh Harrison (hand fracture) took infield practice with a modified glove. He’s still expected to be about a month away from returning.
Cardinals: Luke Weaver (2-1, 4.85 ERA) will start the series finale Sunday. Weaver has given up 10 runs over his last two starts after allowing four total in his first three outings of the season.
Pirates: RHP Nick Kingham is expected to be recalled from the minors for his major league debut. Kingham was 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in four starts with Triple-A Indianapolis.