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Paul Skenes gets standing ovation from Cardinals fans in Bucs victory

There are few major cities in the United States where baseball, our former national pastime, still reigns supreme over football and the NFL.

St. Louis, home of the baseball Cardinals, is one of those towns. Cards fans have celebrated 19 National League pennants and attended 11 World Series parades. They’ve cheered for some of the greatest baseball players the sport has ever produced–including Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, Ozzie Smith and Albert Pujols.

Needless to say, the Cardinals faithful have witnessed a lot over the years, and they know greatness when they see it. Maybe that’s why over 34,000 showed up at Busch Stadium for a mid-June game against the rival Pirates on Tuesday night.

It wasn’t just any night, it was Paul Skenes Night in St. Louis. OK, maybe the fans there didn’t call it that, but they sure wanted to see if this young pitching phenom was for real.

They found out.

Skenes pitched six-and-a-third scoreless innings, as he danced around five hits and struck out eight batters while walking none. It was the longest game of Skenes’ career; he threw 103 pitches–including 74 for strikes. The Pirates won the game, 2-1, but Skenes didn’t figure into the decision. Instead, he exited a scoreless game in the bottom of the seventh inning but did so to a standing ovation by the white-and-red-clad fans at Busch Stadium.

Truth be told, Miles Mikolas, the Cardinals veteran pitcher, had an even more impressive outing, throwing five perfect innings before allowing a walk in the top of the sixth. Mikolas had a no-hitter through six until outfielder Bryan Reynolds broke it up with a lead-off triple in the top of the seventh. In typical Buccos fashion, Reynolds was stranded at third.

Fortunately, Pittsburgh’s bullpen, led by Aroldis Chapman and Colin Holderman, kept St. Louis hitters scoreless over the next two innings.

The Pirates loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the ninth inning, thanks to walks by Jack Suwinski and Reynolds sandwiched around a single by Andrew McCutchen. Pittsburgh scored the game’s first run when Connor Joe grounded into a fielder’s choice at shortstop, but St. Louis catcher Pedro Pages dropped the subsequent throw to the plate, allowing Suwinski to touch home safely. The Pirates got some insurance on an Oneil Cruz sacrifice fly that scored McCutchen to make it 2-0.

Pittsburgh would need that insurance when closer David Bednar allowed a lead-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Things got a bit dicey from there, as Bednar allowed a two-out walk. Pinch-hitter Ivan Herrera then appeared to strike out to end the game, but the Cardinals challenged that catcher Yasmani Grandal interfered with Herrera’s swing, and the call was reversed upon replay review.

Thankfully, Bednar struck out the next batter to earn his 14th save, as the Pirates improved to 32-34 on the season. Pittsburgh began the evening in last place in the National League Central but was able to move into second place in the wacky and mediocre division.

The Pirates have two more games in St. Louis before heading to Colorado to finish out this six-game road trip.


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