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Pirates finish sweep of Cards
PITTSBURGH -- 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 1/2 games and need a quick turnaround to make something out of what is fast becoming their 12th consecutive losing season.
"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.
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 had not been swept in a three-game series in Pittsburgh since Sept. 25 to 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 4-4 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 RBIs 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.Noteworthy
n Morris has given up 16 first-inning runs in 17 starts.