- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 6, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Cardinals starter Michael Wacha struggled for much of his 2016 debut.

However, he made the pitch he needed to escape a two-on, one-out situation in the fifth when Pittsburgh’s Francisco Cervelli hit a potential double play grounder to Aledmys Diaz at shortstop, but the rookie struggled to field it cleanly.

Pittsburgh scored on the play then tied the game on Gregory Polanco’s sacrifice fly later in the inning.

The Pirates went on to outlast St. Louis in extra innings when Jordy Mercer singled Polanco home from second with one out in the 11th for a 6-5 victory on Tuesday night.

“I was just thinking of making a double play for the team and I think I hurried up a little bit and missed the ball,” Diaz said.

Diaz, recalled from Triple-A Memphis on Monday to replace injured outfielder Tommy Pham, made his first start for St. Louis. He signed with the club two years ago after he defected from Cuba and even earned his first career hit in the third inning.

But his miscue might be what Diaz remembers more vividly.

“A lot of things were going through his head,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Whether he’s going to take the base himself, whether he’s going to dish it. It’s a play that happens all over baseball.”

Polanco, who agreed to a $35 million, five-year contract earlier in the day, drew a walk from Seth Maness (0-1) with one out in the 11th and made it to second on Josh Harrison’s infield single. Mercer slapped a single to right for his fourth career game-ending hit.

Mercer faced Maness 16 times before Tuesday and even though he only had two hits against the reliever, he drew upon the experience to sit back on his changeup.

“I know what he’s got,” Mercer said. “I just wanted to let (the changeup) travel, see it deep and I was able to do that.”

Kyle Lobstein (1-0) pitched two innings of relief for the win. Andrew McCutchen had three hits for Pittsburgh. Mercer, Josh Harrison and David Freese had two hits each.

Jedd Gyorko hit his first home run for St. Louis. Stephen Piscotty went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.

St. Louis starter Michael Wacha, who won his first seven decisions in 2015 en route to his first All-Star appearance, struggled with his curveball and Pittsburgh pounced. Wacha gave up five runs, four earned, in 4 1-3 innings, leaving after four straight Pirates reached.

“I liked what he was doing,” Matheny said. “He kept us in the game, he got right to the end and made the pitch he needed to get us out of trouble.”

Pittsburgh left-hander Jon Niese gave up five runs, four earned, and five hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in five innings.


Before Polanco reached base on a walk with one out in the 11th, St. Louis relievers retired 18 consecutive Pittsburgh hitters.

Tyler Lyons, Seung-Hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton, Trevor Rosenthal and Seth Maness were perfect for six innings and struck out seven in relief of Wacha.

“They were terrific,” Matheny said. “One right after the other, that’s what we were hoping for. Except having a two-run lead and handing it over to them.”

The Cardinals’ bullpen ranked second in the National League with a 2.82 ERA in relief last season, and the team expects the bullpen to be a strength once again in 2016. St. Louis trailed only Pittsburgh, which led the majors with a 2.67 bullpen ERA in 2015.


Cardinals: St. Louis placed Pham on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain he aggravated in Sunday’s opener. … Backup catcher Brayan Pena underwent surgery to repair loose cartilage in his left knee. Pena is expected to be out a month.

Pirates: Gerrit Cole’s bumpy spring training appears to be behind him. The All-Star will make his first start of 2016 on Saturday in Cincinnati. Pittsburgh brought its ace along slowly after Cole dealt with rib issues in January.


Cardinals: Mike Leake will make his debut with St. Louis on Wednesday when the series wraps up. St. Louis signed Leake to a five-year, $80 million deal last December. The 28-year-old went 11-10 with a 3.70 ERA last season for Cincinnati and San Francisco.

Pirates: Juan Nicasio hopes to build off his impressive spring when he makes his first start for Pittsburgh. Nicasio beat out veteran Ryan Vogelsong for the final spot in Pittsburgh’s starting rotation after pitching 15 shutout innings in Grapefruit League play. He went 1-3 with a 3.86 ERA while working out of the bullpen in 2015 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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