Cardinals look to continue their fun against Pirates

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PITTSBURGH — Tension? What tension?

The St. Louis Cardinals are having a blast as they make a push for a playoff spot.

The Cardinals look to continue enjoying their pursuit of a playoff spot Saturday night when they face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of a three-game series.

"It's been a lot of fun. It's a fun stretch right now," starter Michael Wacha said Friday after he watched his teammates score twice in the ninth to get a 4-3 victory Friday.

Jedd Gyorko delivered the tying single as a pinch hitter and Randal Grichuk scored the go-ahead run on a fielding error by Pittsburgh shortstop Jordy Mercer.

"It just seems this team never gives up and we're always in it," Wacha said. "We've been playing some hard games on this road trip."

But not all against great opponents.

The Cardinals (81-72) got swept in three games by the National League Central-leading Chicago Cubs to start the trip, then swept last-place Cincinnati before opening the series against a Pirates team (69-85) that's nearly as bad as the Reds.

St. Louis moved into second place in the division, a half-game ahead of Milwaukee, and remains five games behind the Cubs. The Cardinals are 1 1/2 games behindColorado for the second NL wild card spot.

"We're starting to play really well right now at crunch time," Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong said.

A pair of 11-win right-handed starters will face off Saturday, St. Louis' Lance Lynn (11-7, 3.09 ERA) and Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole (11-11, 4.13 ERA).

Lynn was cruising with 11 quality starts in 12 outings until his past two. He did not get past the fifth in either.

His last time out, Lynn got a no-decision Sunday against the Cubs when he went four innings and allowed three runs, four hits and four walks in a game the Cardinals came back to win.

Lynn is 7-6 with a 4.50 ERA in 22 appearances (20 starts) against the Pirates in his career, including 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts this season.

In Cole's most recent start, a 5-2 loss Sunday against Cincinnati, he allowed just three hits, but four runs, in five-plus innings, with four walks and six strikeouts. He was throwing a one-hitter going into the sixth, then got pulled after he gave up a walk, a homer, another walk and another homer.

Even with the season winding down, Cole is still evaluating and looking for answers.

"Try to take the good, I guess," Cole said. "There's more work to be done."

Cole has gotten just five runs of offensive support over his past five starts, totaling 32 innings.

At PNC Park, he is 0-3 over his past seven starts, with his last win at home coming June 13 against Colorado.

Against the Cardinals, he is 6-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 13 career starts, including 1-1 in three starts this season.

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