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Pirates' relievers cover Perez's ejection, stifle Cards

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- It's on to Wrigley Field for the St. Louis
Cardinals, denied a chance to clinch a tie for the NL Central title
at home when the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates avoided a three-game
sweep.

Brad Eldred hit a pair of solo shots for his first multihomer
game and the Pirates' bullpen worked 7 1/3 innings after Oliver
Perez was ejected, keeping the Cardinals' magic number for
clinching the division at two with a 5-3 victory Wednesday.

"It feels good to play them tough, not have them clinch against
us," Pittsburgh interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "We didn't
make it easy for them."

The Pirates won for only the fourth time in 19 games. The
Cardinals completed a 6-4 homestand and begin a 10-game road trip
that starts with a four-game series in Chicago on Thursday.

Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek said it would have been more
satisfying to clinch in Chicago if the Cubs had a contending team.

"If they might have been a little bit closer it would probably
be a little more special," Grudzielanek said. "But it's one of
those things where I don't think they've really got their thing
together."

Closing in on their fifth playoff berth in six years, the
Cardinals could still clinch a tie for the NL Central championship
later Wednesday night with a Houston loss to Florida.

Jason Bay homered, doubled and drove in two runs off Jason
Marquis (12-14) for the Pirates, who finished 4-12 against the
Cardinals this season. Bay is 10-for-19 against Marquis with three
homers, four doubles, a triple and eight RBI, and he added a third
hit with a single in the seventh.

Eldred, the Pirates' minor league player of the year last
season, homered leading off the second and hit his ninth over the
visitors' bullpen in left field with one out in the sixth for a 4-1
lead.

Perez was ejected with two outs in the second inning after
hitting Hector Luna in the left leg with a pitch during an
otherwise quiet game between teams that feuded recently. Perez was
on the 15-day disabled list with a broken big toe when the teams
had a pregame scuffle on Aug. 24 in Pittsburgh that led to
suspensions of Pirates batting coach Gerald Perry and Cardinals
pitching coach Dave Duncan along with then-Pirates manager Lloyd
McClendon.

This was Perry's first game back after an eight-game banishment.
Plate umpire Eric Cooper appeared to warn Marquis before the top of
the third.

Cooper said he was alerted by Bob Watson, baseball's vice
president of on-field operations, about potential trouble between
the teams before the series. He also noted that Luna was at the
center of the confrontation in Pittsburgh after his hard slide
knocked out second baseman Jose Castillo for the season with a knee
injury.

"He had been hit once before in the series," Cooper told a
pool reporter. "It was certain given the variables I had to work
with in that particular game, in that particular situation with the
pitcher hitting behind him, I thought he was throwing at him
intentionally."

Perez denied he plunked Luna on purpose.

"I had a no-hitter, that is why I was so surprised," Perez
said. "I want to show what I can do. There's no way I would ever
throw at anybody intentionally."

Mackanin understood Cooper's view.

"I can see why he's suspicious," he said. "But we had played
two clean games."

Mike Gonzalez, the Pirates' seventh pitcher, got two outs for
his second save. He struck out pinch-hitter Reggie Sanders and
retired So Taguchi on a grounder with runners at second and third
for Pittsburgh's first save in 28 games. Ryan Vogelsong (2-1)
allowed a run in 2 1/3 innings.

Bay hit his 29th homer in the first, and Eldred's first homer
made it 2-0. Bay's RBI double made it 3-1 in the fifth.

Einar Diaz's RBI double came in the fourth. Leadoff walks issued
by John Grabow to David Eckstein and Grudzielanek in the seventh
helped the Cardinals cut the gap to one on Albert Pujols'
run-scoring groundout and John Gall's sacrifice fly to the
left-field wall, both off Jose Mesa.

Tike Redman's RBI double in the ninth off Julian Tavarez put the
Pirates ahead 5-3.

Marquis lasted six innings and gave up four runs, three earned,
and eight hits. He won his previous three starts, two of them
complete games.

"Mentally, I feel great," Marquis said. "You have games where
you get beat even though you've thrown the ball well."

Game notes
The Cardinals received approval from Major League Baseball
to begin selling tickets for the postseason on Sept. 19. ... Hall
of Famer Stan Musial participated in the Busch Stadium countdown,
removing his uniform No. 6 from the right-field wall. ... Bay
scored his 100th run, become the first Pirates player to reach the
century mark since Brian Giles in 2001. ... Grudzielanek returned
to the Cardinals' lineup after missing seven games with a lower
back injury and was 2-for-4 with a walk. ... A paid crowd of 40,172
was the Cardinals' 37th straight of 40,000 or more.