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The way the schedule played out for the Pittsburgh Pirates, they had the perfect opportunity to make up ground and get back into the National League Central race.

Unfortunately they didn’t take advantage and another blown lead Thursday night resulted in an 11-7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, all but sticking a fork in the Pirates slim playoff chances.

The loss was the fifth consecutive for a team that couldn’t afford to lose many games the rest of the way and leaves the Bucs 5.5 games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs.

After jumping out to an early 5-1 lead against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who struggled to hit 85 mph with his fastball, the Bucs bullpen allowed the Cardinals back into the game.

The combination of Joaquin Benoit and Wade LeBlanc, two guys who shouldn’t be on a roster of a team trying to contend, allowed a combined seven runs in 1.1 combined innings of work.

Both teams had 15 hits each in this one. Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison had three knocks apiece for the Bucs while Starling Marte and David Freese each collected two hits apiece.

But it was the same old story for the Pirates as the bullpen faltered once again.

After a rain delay, Cardinals center fielder Dexter Fowler tripled down the right field line off Benoit to give St. Louis a 6-5 lead in the seventh. Fowler had three RBI on the evening.

Benoit has allowed nine runs in six games since being acquired by the Pirates at the trade deadline.

The Bucs weren’t without their opportunities as they left the bases loaded in the sixth inning and couldn’t strike with runners on second and third in the seventh.

Harrison gave the Bucs an early 2-0 lead with a first-inning two-run homer and the Pirates added on with three consecutive two-out RBI singles off Wainwright in the third.

Jameson Taillon started for the Pirates and was lifted following the rain delay. He allowed four runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts in five innings.

Before the game, catcher Francisco Cervelli was placed on the 10-day DL and infielder Max Moroff was recalled.

The Bucs will try and halt the losing streak tonight when Trevor Williams (5-5, 4.19) takes the hill against the Cardinals Carlos Martinez (9-9, 3.56).

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Why Benoit?

General manager Neal Huntington gave fans every reason why the Benoit deal was made, but he clearly has no business on an MLB roster right now.

Since being acquired he has posted a, 11.81 ERA in 5.1 innings pitched.

For a team wanting to contend, carrying players like he and LeBlanc is inexcusable.

Dovydas Neverauskas was a much better option to have in the pen rather than Benoit or LeBlanc for that fact.

There’s no situation the team can pitch Benoit in right now. Every leverage situation turns into a complete dumpster fire.

The bottom line, is there are some arms in the system the Pirates could have turned to in order to help a struggling bullpen but they chose not to. They also could have added a better arm at the deadline but chose not to.

These are the guys they wanted. They have to live with the poor results.

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Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.

  • Terry Hunter

    I couldn’t agree with you more about Benoit. When the team signed him, I officially gave up on the season. (And that was before he made one pitch!) He was once a fine pitcher, but there was no reason to acquire him now.