After the Pittsburgh Pirates lost their ninth consecutive game, manager Derek Shelton hoped aloud that someone would come through with a big hit and execute a pitch to stop the slide.
The best bets to do that were Bryan Reynolds and David Bednar.
Both delivered in a big way.
Reynolds answered the call by belting a two-run homer in the seventh inning, and Bednar recorded the final eight outs as the Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-4, snapping the losing streak and avoiding a four-game series sweep Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
“These two guys are important. They’re part of our core moving forward,” Shelton said. “We’re going to make young mistakes. We have to have teaching moments off those moments. That’s going to be really important. As we’re doing that, we need to have some guys step up. Those are two guys that we need to step up and they really did.”
With the game tied at 4-4, Tucupita Marcano hit a two-out single and Reynolds won an eight-pitch at-bat against Cardinals reliever Andre Pallante by driving a 3-2 curveball 394 feet into the home bullpen in right to break a 4-4 tie.
It was the 11th home run this season for Reynolds, who is riding a red-hot June after a slow start. Reynolds has served as a bright spot for the Pirates on a miserable road trip, batting .536 (15 for 28), and is hitting .404 (21 for 52) with a double, triple, four homers and nine RBIs in 13 games this month to boost his batting average to .257.
“He got off to a rough start and I think on this road trip, we saw the Bryan Reynolds we all expected to see,” Shelton said. “That’s a huge at bat and that’s a big lift. That’s the things that Bryan Reynolds can do and it was probably one of the bigger moments for us this year.”
Bednar came on with one out in the seventh and allowed one hit and one walk with four strikeouts on 43 pitches for his 11th save to clinch the win. the 22⁄3-inning outing was the longest of his career.
“Bednar’s a dog,” Reynolds said. “He just goes out there every day, coming in and slamming the door and doing All-Star things.”
Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty made his first start of the season but lasted only three innings because of a high pitch count after allowing four runs (two unearned) on three hits and two walks while striking out three on 60 pitches (37 strikes).
The Pirates took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, when Reynolds tripled to center and scored on Daniel Vogelbach’s grounder to first and Ke’Bryan Hayes drew a walk and scored on Cal Mitchell’s single to center.
After a pair of Cardinals throwing errors on back-to-back bunts, the Pirates increased their lead to 4-0 in the second inning. Canaan Smith-Njigba drew a leadoff walk, reached second on Tyler Heineman’s bunt and scored when Flaherty’s throw sailed wide of Brendan Donovan at first and rolled along the first base netting. Heineman scored from the second when Hoy Park laid down another bunt, and catcher Yadier Molina’s throw also went past Donovan.
After giving up a leadoff single to Tommy Edman — who was promptly caught stealing by Heineman — Roansy Contreras didn’t allow another hit until Dylan Carlson homered to right to cut it to 4-1 in the second.
The Cardinals tied it with a three-run fifth that started with Harrison Bader’s leadoff triple to left that saw Smith-Njigba get caught between trying to make the catch and playing the bounce off the wall. It was one of two big mistakes Smith-Njigba would make.
Edman followed with a walk, and both scored on Donovan’s double down the right field line to cut it to 4-3. Contreras was done after walking Nolan Arenado, and Wil Crowe made a throwing error in trying to get Donovan at third on Nolan Gorman’s grounder. That left the bases loaded and Tyler O’Neill hit into a forceout at second to score Donovan.
Contreras gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits and finished with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two) for the first time in six major-league starts.
In the sixth, Smith-Njigba showed his youth again when he hit into a double play. He reached safely on a grounder to short that forced out Michael Chavis at second but turned toward second base when Edman’s throw skipped past Donovan and was tagged out before he could return to first.
Jack Suwinski replacd Smith-Njigba in left, when the Cardinals had runners in scoring position after singles by Donovan and Arenado. Bednar replaced Crowe with one out, but his wild pitch allowed the runners to advance to second and third. Bednar got Gorman and O’Neill to go down swinging at four-seamers to strand both.
Bednar stayed in to pitch the eighth, and after walking Carlson, got Molina to ground to second for a would-be double play. But Marcano touched the bag and hurried his throw to first and it sailed past Michael Chavis for an error. It marked the seventh consecutive game the Pirates committed an error, their longest streak in almost three years. Bednar struck out Bader looking and got Edman to ground out to short.
The question was whether Shelton would let Bednar go back out for the ninth.
“I went down and asked him where he was at,” Shelton said, “and his answer was very convincing so I let him go back out there.”
Donovan led off the ninth with a single on a grounder off the glove of Chavis, but Bednar got Goldschmidt to ground into a 5-4-3 double play. Bednar struck out Arenado on a full-count splitter to end the game.
“I just wanted to go out there and compete and trust my stuff,” Bednar said. “For them to trust me in those situations is big. To get those final eight outs is huge to also to finally get a win on the road trip.”
No one seemed more relieved for the win than Shelton.
“It’s not just another win. This is a win we needed,” Shelton said. “With the exception of the game we played last night, I thought we played well on this trip. We’re a young club. We’ve got to find ways to win games. That’s an important message for this group. But it was a big one.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .