ST. LOUIS -- Miles Mikolas did what Miles Mikolas often does, giving the Cardinals' bullpen a bit of a break while giving the team a chance to pick up a win.
Mikolas went seven innings, allowing just five hits, one walk and one run, as the Cardinals beat the Pirates 11-5 on Tuesday at Busch Stadium. With the Dodgers losing again to Cincinnati -- they are 0-6 against the Reds this season -- the Cardinals upped their lead for the second wild-card spot to three games. Milwaukee lost to Chicago, so the Cardinals are 1 1/2 games out of the first wild-card spot.
It was the first time Mikolas (15-4) has gone seven innings since Aug. 13, and despite his pitch count getting run up early, he hit his stride late and faced the minimum number of hitters in his final three innings.
Bud Norris made his first appearance since his Saturday misadventure in Detroit and retired the side in order in the eighth. After throwing a first-pitch strike to Starling Marte with two outs, he stepped off the mound and bent over at the waist. Quickly, manager Mike Shildt, pitching coach Mike Maddux and a trainer out to check on him. Norris responded by yelling at them not to come out, but they did anyway and after a conversation, he finished the inning without incident. With a 10-run lead, Luke Weaver came in to pitch the ninth, his first appearance since Sept. 2, and gave up four runs and left with two outs and the bases loaded. John Brebbia had to quickly warm up to come in and get the final out.
The Cardinals staked Mikolas to a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Matt Carpenter walked, Jose Martinez singled, both advanced a base on Matt Adams' grounder back to the pitcher, and they both scored on a double to left by Marcell Ozuna.
The scored stayed 2-0 until the Pirates got a run in the fourth on the only time Mikolas struggled the whole game. He gave up a leadoff double to Josh Bell, who scored on a single by Corey Dickerson. He followed that up with a single to Colin Moran that put runners on first and third with one out, but Mikolas pulled off a Seinfeld parlay, retiring (Kevin) Kramer and (Kevin) Newman on fly balls to end the inning.
Pirates starter Joe Musgrove had found his groove after that, retiring 14 straight Cardinals before Carpenter led off the sixth with a single. Martinez walked and Adams singled to load the bases with no one out. Ozuna struck out and it looked like Musgrove had a chance to get out of the inning, but with Paul DeJong at the plate, he threw a wild pitch that scored Carpenter and moved everyone else up 90 feet. DeJong flew out to deep center to score Martinez and put the Cardinals up 4-1.
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The Cardinals added a run in the seventh on a single by Francisco Pena, a walk to pinch hitter Tyler O'Neill, a walk to Carpenter and a wild pitch from Tanner Anderson, the third pitcher of the inning for the Pirates.
With a four-run lead, that gave Norris a chance to pitch in a less sensitive situation and it got even less sensitive in the ninth when the Cardinals scored four runs off Nick Burdi (three of them earned), making his big-league debut in a third of an inning, giving him a career ERA of 81.00. After he left after giving up a three-run homer to Tyler O'Neill, Clay Holmes came in and gave up two runs of his own before escaping the inning.
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