PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Pirates looked dead in the water after five innings.
They had been shut out by St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty and fallen behind 5-0. A hot and loud Friday night at PNC Park seemingly couldn’t end fast enough for the Pirates with the temperature 90 degrees at first pitch and the stadium sound system seemingly turned up to 12 for whatever reason.
However, the Cardinals gave the Pirates an opening by leaving the bases loaded in the fifth, sixth and seven innings without scoring a run.
The Pirates answered with one run in the sixth inning then six runs in the seventh that included back-to-back home runs by Ke’Bryan Hayes and Josh Palacios to rally for a stirring 7-5 victory in the opener of a three-game series and nine-game homestand.
The Pirates won for the third time in their last four games while moving to 29-27. They remain one game behind the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central standings after four straight last-place finishes.
Flaherty was chased on Hayes’ RBI single with one out. Andre Pallante got out of a second-and-third jam to end the inning, but the Pirates struck in the seventh.
Tucupita Marcano led off the big inning with a double and, one out later, Andrew McCutchen walked. With Carlos Santana at bat, Marcano and McCutchen pulled a double steal.
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then took the rare step of removing Pallante with a 1-0 count in favor of Giovanny Gallegos (1-3). Santana followed with a two-run single to left field to draw the Pirates within 5-3.
Jack Suwinski walked before Hayes unloaded a three-run home run to the left-field bleachers to put the Pirates ahead. Palacios then hit a drive to right for his first career homer in 123 plate appearances.
It marked the second time Hayes has hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later in his four-year career. It was also the fifth time a Pirates hitter as done it this season as Hayes joined a list that includes Ji Hwan Bae, McCutchen, Rodolfo Castro and Connor Joe.
The Pirates have hit back-to-back home five times this season.
Hayes went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and Santana also had three hits. McCutchen added two hits to raise his career total to 1,997.
Yohan Ramirez (1-0) got credit for the win after retiring the only batter he faced. David Bednar worked around a two-out single in the ninth to earn his 11th save in 12 opportunities.
The Pirates were hopeful a quick detour to the bullpen could get Roansy Contreras’ season back on track. Contreras lasted four innings and was charged with five runs as he gave up seven hits, struck out six and walked none.
It was the first start for Contreras since May 21. He pitched once in relief and worked two scoreless innings against the Mariners last Sunday in Seattle.
Contreras gave up two home runs in a five-run third inning after facing the minimum six batters through the first two innings then retiring the first two hitters in the third.
Tommy Edman doubled and Brendan Donovan followed with a two-run home run into the right-field stands. Paul Goldschmidt then doubled and scored on Nolan Gorman’s single before Nolan Arenado hit a two-run blast to right-center to make it 5-0.
The Cardinals (25-33) lost for the third time in their last four games.
Goldschmidt and Arenado had three hits apiece.
Rookie Luis Ortiz (1-2, 4.35) is scheduled to start for the Pirates at 4:05 p.m. Saturday against left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-6, 4.48).