PITTSBURGH (AP) - Shelby Miller still hasn’t discovered a way to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And while the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander will certainly get plenty of shots over the next few years, he appears no closer to figuring it out now than he was a season ago after the Pirates jumped on him late in a 12-2 loss on Friday night.
The 23-year-old Miller tied a career high by allowing five earned runs in 5 1-3 innings while falling to 0-5 with a 5.92 ERA against the Pirates. He is 16-5 with a 2.34 ERA in his 33 other major league appearances.
“It’s not the park. It’s not the team. I just pitched poorly today,” Miller said. “I guess it just lines up that way where I don’t pitch well when I face them. I don’t do anything different against these guys, I do the same things I do against every other team.”
It’s the results, however, that vary.
Pedro Alvarez homered twice and scored three runs as Pittsburgh cruised in the first meeting between the two clubs since the Cardinals won Game 5 of the NL division series last October on their way to winning the National League pennant.
Travis Ishikawa added his first major league home run in nearly two years for the Pirates. Gerrit Cole (1-0) gave up two runs in seven innings in his first start since losing the deciding Game 5 six months ago.
Cole is considered the ace-in-waiting after a stellar rookie season in which he was arguably Pittsburgh’s best pitcher over the final six weeks. Eager to take the next step in his development, the 23-year-old kept the Cardinals in check by mixing a fastball that consistently reaches the upper 90s with improved offspeed stuff.
“We had a couple of opportunities and he’s got good stuff, no question, and did a nice job of limiting the damage when we did get something going,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said Cole.
He also showcased some of his maturity, working out of a bases loaded situation in the fourth by getting Jhonny Peralta to fly out. His only mistake came in the fifth when Matt Carpenter drilled a shot into the right field stands to pull the Cardinals with 3-2.
Pittsburgh’s offense - which mustered all of 20 hits in 35 innings of a season-opening series against the Chicago Cubs - made sure it didn’t stay close for long after pounding out 16 hits in eight innings against the NL Central favorites.
“Tonight we got pitches to hit and didn’t miss them when we got them,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve got good results against Miller in the limited exposure we’ve got with him.”
Alvarez began the year in a 1 for 15 slump but ended that with a home run to the gap in left-center for his first home run of the season. He added his second two innings later with a long drive to right-center that traveled an estimated 448 feet.
Yet Alvarez’s most important contribution may have been a trio of sprints in the sixth. The burly third baseman chugged down the first base line to beat out a potential double-play ball to keep a rally going then promptly stole the fifth base of his career. A moment later Alvarez was deftly avoiding Yadier Molina’s tag at home plate to score on a single by Russell Martin that made it 4-2.
Matheny came out to talk to the umpires but did not ask for a challenge - replays showed Alvarez was safe - and the Cardinals unraveled. Martin scored when Molina hit him in the back with a throw during a rundown between third and home. The ball rolled into the stands and Martin trotted home to make it 5-2.
“We’re still down at that point but it’s a big point in the game,” Matheny said. “I really believe we would have got out of the inning with only one run allowed and we’re still very much in the game if that’s the case.”
NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 1:05 by rain, the third straight time a Cardinals’ game was delayed by weather. … Injured Cardinals 2B Mark Ellis is starting baseball activities but it remains uncertain when he’ll be ready to return from left knee tendinitis. Ellis went on the 15-day DL on March 27 and is eligible to return on April 11. … The series continues on Saturday. RHP Joe Kelly will make his season debut for the Cardinals against Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00).
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