Cardinals top sloppy Pirates 6-5 in 11 innings

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Down four on the road late against a team feeding off the adrenaline of its home opener, the St. Louis Cardinals waited patiently for the buzz to wear off.

When it did, they pounced.

Kolten Wong, a former University of Hawaii player from Hilo, hit a two-run homer to provide St. Louis with a much-needed spark, and the Cardinals took advantage of a bumpy outing by Pittsburgh’s bullpen to slip past the Pirates 6-5 in 11 innings on Monday.

The Cardinals rallied to tie it in the eighth and again in the ninth then took their first and only lead in the 11th. Paul DeJong singled off Steven Brault (0-1) with two outs, moved to third after a hit batter and a walk and sprinted home from third when Pirates reliever Nick Kingham and catcher Francisco Cervelli got crossed up. Kingham’s pitch squirted past Cervelli and went all the way to the backstop, allowing DeJong to score easily.

“You knew you had to just keep your head down and keep going,” said Wong, who has three home runs through five games after hitting nine in 127 games in 2018. “This was either going to be a game where they kept going or we were going to get them back. We were confident in ourselves. We knew they weren’t too far ahead.”

Jordan Hicks (1-1) worked two scoreless innings for St. Louis. John Gant picked up the save despite issuing a one-out walk to finish a sloppy 4-hour, 53-minute marathon that featured 16 pitchers, 16 walks, four hit batters, three errors and two home plate umpires. Crew chief Jerry Layne left in the seventh after taking a ball off the mask and was replaced by Vic Carapazza.

“That’s the definition of gutty right there, across the board,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Literally, contributions from everyone. The bullpen was outstanding. … The offense scratched and clawed. What can you say about that kind of game? It was crazy.”

So crazy that St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina made his first career appearance at third base in his 1,875th game in the majors. Molina made the cameo at third in the 11th when Matt Wieters — the last position player available for the Cardinals — came in to pinch hit in the 11th and stayed on to catch in the bottom of the inning. Molina did not have a defensive chance.

“Yadi had this big smile on his face,” Shildt said. “He was happy about it. He loves catching, but he wanted to play some third, I guess.”