Cards dominate Pirates again
The crowd at PNC Park had several reasons to cheer Tuesday night, sending sonic booms of applause out across the Allegheny River.
It happened every time highlights of the Penguins game were flashed on the Jumbotron scoreboard.
As for the Pirates … well, they caused nothing but groans.
A solid outing by starter Omar Olivares was wasted, as the St. Louis Cardinals muscled out an 8-3 victory.
It was the Pirates’ fourth straight loss, and it dropped them to a season-worst 12 games below .500.
‘It’s been tough, but we have to move on,’ Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. ‘We have to put this behind us.’
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have won eight in a row, the longest active winning streak in the majors. It also was their ninth consecutive triumph over the Pirates, going back to last August.
Olivares (2-4) took the loss, despite notching a career-high 10 strikeouts. He allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings. The big blow was delivered by rookie phenom Albert Pujols, who cranked a solo home run in the third to snap a 2-2 tie.
‘I thought Omar had exceptional movement on his fastball,’ McClendon said. ‘He seemed to settle down as the game progessed. I was encouraged.’
The Cardinals turned the game into a rout in the seventh inning, scoring four times off relievers Josias Manzanillo and Scott Sauerbeck. Ex-Pirate Bobby Bonilla sparked a chorus of boos by blasting a three-run homer into the left-field bleachers.
‘The game was scary … it was right there for anyone,’ Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said. ‘Bobby made it a completely different game.’
A half-inning earlier, the Pirates squandered an excellent opportunity to take the lead. Trailing 3-2, they loaded the bases with one out against right-hander Dustin Hermansen and failed to score.
Pat Meares popped up to right, too shallow for Brian Giles to score the tying run from third. Abraham Nunez, the lone left-handed batter on the bench, struck out swinging at a high fastball.
That the Pirates gagged in the clutch was no surprise. They are batting an anemic .232 with runners in scoring position, including a 12-for-68 slide (.177) since May 6.
‘We didn’t execute when we needed to,’ said first baseman Kevin Young, who went 1 for 4 and stranded three baserunners. ‘We aren’t that good of a ball club where we can miss those opportunities. We need to execute when the time calls for it.’
The Cardinals scored single runs in the first two innings. Fernando Vina tripled off the out-of-town scoreboard in right leading off the game, and scored on Placido Polanco’s ground out.
Ray Lankford, who crushed the Pirates last week in St. Louis, doubled into the left-center field notch to start the second. He scored when Hermansen singled up the middle with one out.
The Pirates tied the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the second.
Emil Brown, a late insertion into the lineup after Derek Bell came down with a sore neck, singled with one out. Meares tripled to left, scoring Brown, and came in on Olivares’ bloop single.
It didn’t take long, though, for the Cardinals to regain the lead. Pujols led off the third with a solo homer to left. It was Pujols’ 14th homer of the season, and his fifth over the past eight games.