So Bader dug in and swung as Vazquez's 99 mph fastball ran in on his hands. When it dropped for a single in the eighth inning, the game was tied. Moments later, Vazquez's control abandoned him and the Cardinals were on their way to a 6-4 victory over the slumping Pirates on Sunday.
"Obviously, it was pretty firm," Bader said. "It was just working inside the baseball and I got enough on it to just muscle it out there. That was a good one."
The Cardinals won for just the fourth time in 19 games when trailing after seven innings by pouncing on Pittsburgh's bullpen. Jedd Gyorko's pinch-hit, two-run single off Edgar Santana in the seventh pulled St. Louis within one.
The Cardinals quickly loaded the bases off Michael Feliz (0-2) and the Pirates brought in Vazquez with one out in the eighth. Bader dumped the fourth pitch he saw from Vazquez just over the outstretched hands of second baseman Sean Rodriguez. Vazquez walked Yairo Munoz on four pitches to hand St. Louis the lead and the Cardinals added another run when Carson Kelly bounced into a fielder's choice.
"It happens fast, but it just shows you that hitting is always contagious," Bader said. "You just do your best to pass the baton to the next guy. It was a really good team win. I wouldn't be in that situation if it wasn't for the guys in the game previous, what they did to allow me to have success up there."
Vazquez has blown three straight save opportunities for the Pirates, who have dropped seven of nine. Director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said afterward that Vazquez experienced left forearm discomfort after his final two pitches. Vazquez was not available postgame and will be re-evaluated Monday.
"We haven't seen him in this lane before as far as being inconsistent with the command, especially the fastball," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before Vazquez was examined by the training staff. "It's been something that's really been in a good place. We'll keep hunting it and so will he."
Matt Carpenter went 2 for 4 for St. Louis and is hitting .422 (19 of 45) since May 16.
Rookie Austin Meadows continued his torrid start for the Pirates, going 2 for 3 to boost his average to .455 since making his major league debut on May 16. Adam Frazier hit a two-run triple off Miles Mikolas in the fifth, but Pittsburgh's relievers couldn't hold a 4-1 advantage after 6 1/3 solid innings by Jameson Taillon.
Taillon was charged with three runs when Gyorko's looping fly ball to left off Santana fell for a hit in the seventh. Taillon allowed just five hits and struck out five but remains winless since April 8 as the Pirates lost for the first time all season when leading after seven innings (23-1).
The Cardinals' comeback helped Mikolas avoid his first major league loss in nearly four years. Relying heavily on impeccable control after spending two seasons in Japan, Mikolas has been one of the biggest surprises in the majors and came in off a four-hit shutout against Kansas City that served notice his hot start was hardly a fluke.
He had little trouble through the first four innings before a rare walk opened the door for the Pirates in the fifth. Elias Diaz led off with just the seventh walk issued by Mikolas this season. Jordy Mercer followed with a single before Frazier wore him down, fouling off six pitches before sending a shot over Tommy Pham in center field to drive in Mercer and Diaz. Meadows followed with a sacrifice fly.
Mikolas tied a season high by allowing four runs in six innings as his ERA ticked up to 2.54.
Cardinals: Held OF Dexter Fowler out of the lineup a day after Fowler took a 91 mph pitch off the right knee from Pittsburgh's Trevor Williams. ... Bench coach Mike Shildt suffered a head contusion after getting hit by a foul ball off the bat of Pittsburgh's Starling Marte while sitting in the dugout in the first inning. Shildt returned in the third inning after receiving treatment.
Pirates: Scratched C Francisco Cervelli due to flu-like symptoms. ... The team will wait at least one more day before deciding whether Ivan Nova's sprained left index finger is bad enough to put him on the disabled list. General manager Neal Huntington said left-hander Steven Brault or rookie right-hander Nick Kingham are the top options if Nova is out.
Cardinals: Head to Milwaukee to take on the first-place Brewers on Monday. Luke Weaver (3-4, 4.31 ERA) starts in the opener.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
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