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Nunez addition pays off for Pirates
ST. LOUIS -- Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon played a hunch Sunday and it paid big dividends for the Pirates.
Abraham Nunez made the most of his rare start and drove in three runs, including a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning that led the Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Nunez, called up from the minors on May 19, started in place of Jack Wilson and led off as Adrian Brown moved to second in the lineup.
"I wanted to give Jack a day off," McClendon said. "It was just a hunch to play Nunez. It wasn't anything magical although he certainly had a magical day. I thought it would take some pressure off Brown by batting Nunez leadoff. Nunez puts the bat on the ball."
With the score tied at 2, catcher Keith Osik led off the seventh with a single against Matt Morris (7-4). After Pokey Reese hit into a fielder's choice and Chad Hermansen walked, the Pirates pulled off a double steal.
"I got a good jump," Reese said. "I almost overslid the bag there. My toe stopped me from going all the way out. Whoa. Then, Nunez came through."
Nunez then slapped a single between shortstop and third base, giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead.
"The opportunity was presented to me and I went out there and did great," Nunez said. "The double steal there was very important. I got a curveball down and out and I stayed back on it. All I had to do was wait on it."
Nunez added a two-run single in the eighth.
"That was pretty much the ballgame for us," McClendon said. "It certainly gave us breathing room."
Kris Benson, making his fifth start after missing last season with an elbow injury, allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings. Benson is still looking for his first win of the season.
"I feel real good," Benson said. "I thought I made some real good pitches. I feel encouraged about that after being off for so long. I try to keep it positive."
Sean Lowe (1-2) got two outs for the win and Mike Williams pitched the ninth for his 17th save.
Brian Giles hit a solo homer for the Pirates, who had lost eight of 12. St. Louis lost for just the sixth time in 23 games.
Morris (7-4) allowed three runs, seven hits and four walks in seven innings. Morris has struggled of late, going 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA in his past four starts.
"We lost, that's the bottom line," Morris said. "I gave up one too many today."
After Giles' 14th homer gave the Pirates the lead in the first, Nunez doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Aramis Ramirez in the third.
"I don't think he (Morris) had his best stuff today," Giles said. "He goes out there and he throws strikes. He got three good pitches. He's one of those guys who doesn't have to have his great stuff everyday to be successful."
St. Louis tied the game at 2 in the fourth. Kerry Robinson led off with a single and, with one out, Albert Pujols hit a 1-0 pitch into the left-field bullpen. It was his 11th home run of the season.
"Give the Pirates credit. For us, it was an irritating loss but they earned it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I give them credit."