Last season the Cardinals and Pirates played a handful of hard-fought contests as they battled for positioning in the National League Central down the homestretch.
It may only be the homestretch of the first half of the 2014 campaign, but the Bucs and Redbirds are again neck and neck, and Monday night's series opener felt a lot like those games of late last season. The rivals -- separated by just a half-game -- have three more games this week in which to make a push before the All-Star break.
Following a pitcher's duel, the Cardinals walked off on Monday on Matt Adams' two-run homer, and jumped back into second place in the division. The first-place Brewers have lost six of seven but maintain a four-game lead.
"We enjoy playing against teams in the Central, knowing they're going to be tough fights and that there is always that chance that this could be what determines fate down the line," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose team will also play the Brewers three times before the Midsummer Classic.
"We have to go about it the same way all the time. We do have a long way to go, and we feel like we just have to control what we can today."
The Pirates will look to even the series behind right-hander Vance Worley, who lost a no-hitter and a lead in a matter of batters in the sixth inning of his previous start, against the D-backs. He has been a strong addition to the rotation since joining in mid-June, and he is 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.940 WHIP in four starts.
Right-hander Carlos Martinez will take the hill for the Cardinals, making his fifth start and 35th appearance. Martinez threw a season-high 88 pitches in his most recent start, a 7-2 win over the Giants on Thursday. The Cardinals are 4-0 when Martinez begins the game on the mound, and he has a 2.45 ERA as a starter.
Pirates: Liriano sets down 15 in a row in rehab start
Left-hander Francisco Liriano silenced his Triple-A opposition in his first rehab start since straining his left oblique on June 10.
Liriano, 30, retired the final 15 batters he faced and ended the outing with five straight strikeouts. He pitched six scoreless innings, struck out eight without walking a batter and surrendered three hits on 76 pitches (53 strikes).
The Pirates' Opening Day starter, he has had some struggles this season, going 1-6 with a 4.60 ERA and 1.452 WHIP in 14 starts before the injury. He won 16 games and had a 3.01 ERA in 2013, his first season with the Bucs.
Cardinals: Throwing has to wait for recovering Wacha
General manager John Mozeliak said that although the results of Michael Wacha's MRI were encouraging, the team still wants the righty to wait two more weeks before he starts to throw again.
Wacha hurt his throwing shoulder three weeks ago, and since then has done a lot of resting and rehab without picking up a ball. It will be another two weeks of the same for Wacha, who will then be re-evaluated.
"Obviously, the best news would have been that he had been cleared to throw," Mozeliak said. "He's not there yet, and I think, just taking a very proactive stance on this, this is best for him and his career. I'm sure he's frustrated and would like to be a little bit ahead of this, but I think this is just in the best interest of him. Hopefully, by the next time we do another MRI, he'll be clear."
Wacha, who turned 23 last week, is 5-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings over 15 starts this season.
• Monday marked the sixth time this season that the Pirates have been shut out, and the first time since June 8, against the Brewers.
• Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek ran his streak of scoreless innings to 10 2/3 on Monday with a scoreless ninth against the Pirates. Adams' walk-off homer gave Neshek his third win of 2014.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.