<
>

Pirates rally after Mesa blows first save

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates wish they had played
this well against the St. Louis Cardinals back when they were close
enough to see the division leaders in the standings.

Bobby Hill drove in the winning run with a two-out, pinch-hit
single in the ninth inning to lead the Pirates over St. Louis 6-5
Wednesday, completing their first three-game sweep of the Cardinals
at home in nearly 15 years.

Even with the sweep, the Pirates trail St. Louis by 12{ games
and need a Tampa Bay Devil Rays-like turnaround to make something
out of what is fast becoming their 12th consecutive losing season.

"I said it even when (the Pirates recently lost 21 of 24), this
team never gives up," Jack Wilson said. "It's just unfortunate we
didn't do it earlier."

Julian Tavarez replaced starting pitcher Matt Morris to start
the ninth and got the first two hitters, but Jack Wilson and Rob
Mackowiak singled -- each had three hits -- and Hill lined a single
into right field on a 2-1 pitch to score Wilson.

"We tried to pitch around Hill, not give him anything to hit,
but I left a changeup up in the middle of the strike zone and I
paid for that," Tavarez said.

Jose Mesa (2-0) blew his first save opportunity in 18 chances
but got his second victory of the series, while Tavarez (2-2) took
his second loss in three days.

The Cardinals came into the series with a five-game winning
streak, 11 victories in 13 games and a 22-6 record in PNC Park,
only to be held to six runs in 27 innings by a Pirates pitching
staff that has the NL's fourth-worst ERA.

St. Louis hadn't been swept in a three-game series in Pittsburgh
since Sept. 25-27, 1989, though the Pirates did sweep a four-game
series in 1992.

"We got swept by a team we really should beat up on, no offense
to the Pirates," Morris said. "Without a doubt, we should have
beat them."

It was the Cardinals' first loss in 11 series since they dropped
two of three to the Cubs on May 21-23. Since then, they had won
eight series and split two.

"But we're going to be OK, we're going to be fine," Tavarez
said. "We're still in first place. We're still playing well."

The sweep extended the Pirates' season-best winning streak to
five games and came only a month after the Cardinals swept a
four-game series in Pittsburgh. The Pirates went 9-19 in June
compared to the Cardinals' 19-9.

"It's been a tough go for us this month, no doubt about that,
but I'm happy for these guys to be able to do this," manager Lloyd
McClendon said.

Tike Redman had a two-run single in a three-run Pittsburgh first
against Morris, then broke a 3-all tie in the eighth with a two-out
single. Morris, who gave up 10 hits and five runs in eight innings,
began the inning by walking Craig Wilson.

The Cardinals tied it in the ninth against Mesa on a double-play
grounder after loading the bases with none out on Marlon Anderson's
single, Albert Pujols' second double of the game and an intentional
walk.

Pirates starter Kip Wells repeatedly pitched out of trouble
while taking a 4-3 lead into the seventh, but Pujols doubled to tie
it. Left-hander John Grabow replaced Wells with runners on second
and third and none out but struck out So Taguchi and John Mabry and
got Reggie Sanders on a hard liner to third. Sanders had homered in
the second.

The Pirates opened a 3-0 lead in the first on Redman's two-run
single and Mackowiak's single. Redman drove in two runs in the
Pirates' 3-0 victory Tuesday night and has five RBI in two games.

Wilson's RBI double in the second gave Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead,
but Wells again gave a run back when Ray Lankford doubled to start
the third and scored on a double play.

"We scored early and that kind of woke them up," Wells said.
"It was probably more intense because they knew we could sweep
them."

Wells allowed eight hits and four runs in six-plus innings and
is winless in seven starts since mid-May.

Game notes
Morris has given up 16 first-inning runs in 17 starts. ...
Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds (sore left groin) didn't start for a
fourth consecutive game. ... NL RBI leader Scott Rolen didn't have
an RBI in the series. ... Wells is 0-2 in his last six starts at
home. ... The Cardinals stranded 13 runners in the first two
innings during the series. ... The Pirates' winning streak is their
longest since they won six in a row April 15-21, 2002.