PITTSBURGH (AP) -- In a ninth inning filled with managerial
maneuverings, the Pirates' Lloyd McClendon's unorthodox strategy
got the better of an uncommon move by the Cardinals' Tony La Russa.
Randall Simon's pinch-hit single with the bases loaded in the
ninth gave the Pirates a 6-5 victory over St. Louis on Wednesday
night, preventing the Cardinals from gaining a first-place tie with
Houston in the NL Central.
St. Louis lost for the first time in five games despite Albert
Pujols' second three-run homer in as many games. His 27-game
hitting streak is the longest in the majors this season.
In the bottom of the ninth, reliever Pedro Borbon (0-1) got the
first two hitters before Jason Kendall doubled into the gap in
left-center. La Russa then ordered Brian Giles and Reggie Sanders
intentionally walked, moving Kendall to third.
Simon hit an opposite-field single into left field on an 0-2
pitch to win it, with ball eluding a diving Edgar Renteria in the
hole at shortstop.
"I thought it had a chance to get through because they were
playing me to pull the ball," Simon said. "But with two strikes,
I've got to put the ball in play. I'm just glad it worked out for
McClendon had switch-hitter Abraham Nunez on his bench, but
instead went with the left-handed hitting Simon against the
left-handed Borbon. So much for managing by the book.
"What book? I never read that book. It's a good thing I didn't,
huh?" McClendon said.
"That move, in the long run, worked out OK," Wilson said.
La Russa's decision to put the potential winning run only 90
feet from the plate didn't, but he wasn't about to apologize for
intentionally walking Giles and Sanders.
"It's tough to take a loss, but I couldn't take one of their
big guys beating us," La Russa said. "He (McClendon) made a good
move with Simon because he's a guy who will put the ball in play."
The Cardinals trailed 2-0, only to go ahead 4-2 with a four-run
sixth keyed by Pujols' 33rd homer and fourth in as many games.
Consecutive homers by Wilson and Sanders to start the eighth
briefly put the Pirates up 5-4, but Edgar Renteria's RBI single in
the ninth tied it at 5 against reliever Julian Tavarez.
The Pirates have been using right-hander Mike Lincoln as their
closer, but McClendon, in yet another against-the-book move, stayed
with Tavarez (2-3) in the ninth even though he had already pitched
Pittsburgh trailed 4-3 entering the eighth, but Sanders hit his
25th homer and Wilson his eighth and second of the game in a span
of three pitches by Cal Eldred. Eldred came on after reliever Steve
Kline retired all four batters he faced.
In the Cardinals' big sixth, Pujols' homer followed Miguel
Cairo's RBI double and Eduardo Perez's single. Pirates starter
Brian Meadows took a three-hit shutout into the inning, only to
leave after allowing five consecutive hits, starting with
pinch-hitter Kerry Robinson's single.
Pujols' fly ball initially looked like it might not clear the
wall on a muggy, 82-degree night, but just as right fielder Sanders
appeared to settle under the ball, it carried several rows into the
Pujols' hitting streak is the Cardinals' longest since Ken
Boyer's 29-game streak in 1959. Earlier this season, Kenny Lofton,
then of the Pirates, and Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox had
Pujols probably wishes the Cardinals were making a return trip
to Pittsburgh this season. Not only is he hitting .456 against the
Pirates this season, he has 11 homers and 32 RBI in 23 career
games in PNC Park.
So far, Pujols has hit an important homer in every Cardinals
game this week. His eighth-inning shot Sunday night off the Braves'
John Smoltz gave the Cardinals a 3-2 victory, and he followed that
with first-inning shots Monday and Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the second against Jeff Fassero
on Wilson's first homer of the game. Giles had a run-scoring double
in the fifth, and Jeff Reboulet's third straight hit, a double,
scored a run in the sixth against Cardinals reliever Esteban Yan.
^Notes:@ Second base umpire Chris Guccione left the game because of
dehydration in the third inning. ... Reboulet went 3-for-4 after
ending an 0-for-20 slump with a pinch-hit single the previous
night. ... Wilson also had a two-homer game against the Giants on
Aug. 4, 2002. ... The Pirates must go 27-17 in their final 44 games
to avoid an 11th consecutive losing season.