PITTSBURGH (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals seemingly had this game won.
They led 5-0 after five innings and Miles Mikolas was on his way to raising his record to 4-0. Then it all fell apart as Greg Holland blew his first save opportunity with his new team.
Starling Marte’s game-ending single in the 11th inning lifted the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-5 victory on Friday night.
David Freese drew a one-out walk from rookie Jordan Hicks (1-1), advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on Gregory Polanco’s groundout. Marte then delivered a liner into center field, giving the Pirates their third victory in four games.
“We always talk respecting the game and how you just keep playing,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s what we did. We just kept playing.”
The Pirates also were aided by a meltdown by Holland, who started the ninth inning with a 5-2 lead, but failed to retire any of the four batters he faced as his ERA rose to 7.11 in nine appearances.
“I didn’t get the job done. That’s about as simple as you can put it,” Holland said. “They got a couple hits on some balls I thought were pretty well-located pitches but a three-run lead in the ninth, you’ve got to get that done.”
Holland was signed to a $14-million, one-year contract on opening day after tying for the NL lead with 41 saves last season with the Colorado Rockies. The Cardinals have been looking to ease him into the closer’s role after missing spring training.
“He’s been in those situations, like all our guys have, and you’ve got to find a way to pick your teammates up and get through it and it kind of just snowballed,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Corey Dickerson doubled and scored when first baseman Jose Martinez misplayed Colin Moran’s groundball for an error. Jordy Mercer then doubled off the center-field fence to drive in a run. When Tommy Pham misplayed the ball for an error, pinch-runner Chad Kuhl scored the tying run and Mercer advanced to third.
Three relievers combined to keep Mercer stranded, sending the game to extra innings but the Cardinals wound up losing for just the third time in 13 games.
“We have a deep lineup with good hitters from one through nine,” Mercer said. “That’s why we feel we’re never out of a game.”
Francisco Cervelli had three of the Pirates’ 10 hits and Polanco hit his sixth home run but first since April 12.
George Kontos (2-2) pitched one scoreless inning.
The Cardinals’ Marcell Ozuna had two RBI singles among his three hits and Jedd Gyorko homered.
Mikolas allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Pittsburgh starter Steven Brault gave up five runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings.
Polanco’s home run led off the sixth and Dickerson added a sacrifice fly later in the inning to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-2.
“You got the sense that something good was going to happen after we scored those two runs,” Dickerson said. “We just had the feeling in the dugout that we had a good shot to win the game.”
The Cardinals broke on top 5-0 as Gyorko’s leadoff home run keyed a three-run third inning that included an RBI double by Pham and a run-scoring single by Ozuna. Kolten Wong hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth and Ozuna singled in a run an inning later.
Cardinals: LHP Ryan Sherriff (fractured right big toe) began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis and allowed one run in one inning.
Pirates: RHP AJ Schugel (right shoulder discomfort) has pitched three times for Triple-A Indianapolis, giving up one run in 3 2/3 innings, since having his rehab assignment moved from Class A Bradenton.
KANG TO EXTENDED SPRING
Pirates INF Jung Ho Kang, who is on the restricted list, will begin working out Monday at extended spring training in Bradenton Florida. Kang has not played for the Pirates since 2016 as he was unable to obtain a work visa last year after being arrested in his native South Korea for DUI for a third time and receiving an eight-month suspended sentence.
The Cardinals optioned RHP John Gant to Memphis a day after he pitched three perfect innings to get the win in a 13-inning game with the New York Mets. RHP Mike Mayers was recalled from Memphis.
KINGHAM LIKELY TO DEBUT
Hurdle said the Pirates are planning to recall RHP Nick Kingham from Indianapolis to make a spot start Sunday. It would mark the major league debut for the 26-year-old.
TURN OF THE CENTURY
Phil Coyne, who retired as an usher just prior to opening day, was honored in a pre-game ceremony on his 100th birthday. Coyne began ushering in 1936 and the Pirates estimate he worked over 6,000 games at Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park.
St. Louis will recall RHP Jack Flaherty (0-0, 1.80 ERA) from Memphis to start Saturday night against RHP Trevor Williams (3-1, 2.15). Flaherty pitched for the Cardinals on April 3 at Milwaukee and allowed one run in five innings of a no-decision. Williams is 1-2 with an 8.15 ERA against the Cardinals in six career games.