Cardinals pitchers look to regain control vs. Pirates

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The St. Louis Cardinals will try to regain their pitching control when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night.

The Cardinals walked a whopping 26 batters in San Diego while suffering a three-game sweep by the Padres over the weekend. They have walked 184 batters this season, which leads the majors.

“Just didn’t control the strike zone enough,” manager Mike Shildt said after his Cardinals fell to the Padres 5-3 on Sunday. “Big part of this series. At least two of the three games (it) cost us.”

The Cardinals will start John Gant (2-3, 1.83 ERA) in the opener of a three-game series at Busch Stadium. In his last start, the right-hander held the Milwaukee Brewers to one unearned run on three hits and three walks in five innings. It was the sixth time he walked at least three batters in a game this season.

“I’ve just got to throw more strikes, like always,” Gant said.

This will be his second start against the Pirates this season. Gant earned the victory as the Cardinals defeated the Pirates 7-3 on April 30 in Pittsburgh.

He allowed one run on three hits and five walks in five innings in that game. In his career, Gant is 4-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 17 appearances against the Pirates, including five starts.

Gant has had trouble with Adam Frazier (4-for-10, double, three walks), Bryan Reynolds (2-for-4, two walks, RBI) and Wilmer Difo (1-for-3).

The Pirates will counter with JT Brubaker (3-2, 2.58 ERA), who matched up against Gant during that earlier 7-3 loss. Brubaker struck out seven batters in five innings in that game, but he allowed three runs on seven hits.

Nolan Arenado (2-for-3, two doubles, two RBIs), Tyler O’Neill (1-for-3, homer) and Dylan Carlson (1-for-3, double) are among the Cardinals who hit well against Brubaker in his seven career innings against them.

But Brubaker is coming off one of his best starts of the season. The right-hander held the Cincinnati Reds to one run on five hits in six innings in a 7-2 victory on May 11.

“He’s attacking hitters,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “He’s going right after people. I think with young pitchers, it’s kind of a learned thing and it’s something he was challenged on, and he’s stepped up and did a good job.”

That was the fourth time this season Brubaker held an opponent to one run.

“He’s starting to really grow into his own as a pitcher,” Frazier said. “I think he’s going to be able to keep going and be a really productive arm.”

On the injury front, the Cardinals could get pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon (shoulder) back in the bullpen for this game. He made two rehabilitation appearances for Triple-A Memphis.

Pitcher Carlos Martinez (ankle) is also close to returning, and pitcher Miles Mikolas (shoulder) could return as soon as this weekend. Outfielder Tyler O’Neill is day-to-day with a sprained finger suffered Sunday.

The Pirates’ injured list has included third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes (wrist), pitcher Chad Kuhl (shoulder), first baseman Colin Moran (groin) and utility player Phillip Evans (hamstring). Catcher Jacob Stallings left Sunday’s game with a leg contusion.

–Field Level Media