By now the plot line of the typical Pirates game through the first three weeks of the season has become familiar. Their starting pitcher keeps the game close and the offense cannot score enough runs to win.
The two acts unfolded accordingly Sunday, when Erik Bedard shrugged off a rough first inning to limit the damage from the St. Louis Cardinals lineup. The Pirates managed only one run, and the Cardinals left town with a series victory.
The Pirates' 5-1 loss to the Cardinals on a cold, cloudy Sunday at PNC Park dropped Bedard's record to 0-4. The Pirates (6-9) have scored a total of three runs in the four games he has started this season.
"Runs will come," Bedard said. "Right now, they're just not coming, so just keep doing what you can and keep putting zeroes up there."
- Game: Pirates vs. Rockies, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, radio: Root Sports, KDKA-FM 93.7.
- Probables: LHP Jamie Moyer (1-2, 2.55) vs. RHP Kevin Correia (1-0, 1.50).
- Key matchup: Moyer vs. Rod Barajas, who is 5 for 12 with two home runs against Moyer in his career.
- Hidden stat: Correia, who has not pitched since April 15, is 5-7 with a 5.12 ERA in 21 starts made on six or more days of rest.
The Pirates have scored 30 runs in 15 games. In seven of those 15, they scored zero or one run.
Jose Tabata had two of the Pirates' six hits Sunday. Casey McGehee's pinch-hit single in the eighth provided their only run.
The Pirates went 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position. They had a chance in the fourth, when Neil Walker reached second, and the sixth, when Tabata doubled and went to third on a fly ball, but couldn't push across the runs.
Bedard allowed three runs, two earned, in seven innings. He allowed seven hits and four walks, but struck out seven.
"I thought it was a very blue-collar effort from Erik today," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He battled."
Bedard did a perfect A.J. Burnett impersonation, loading the bases in the first with no outs. Rafael Furcal singled, Tyler Greene reached first on a bunt single that barely stayed fair and Matt Holliday walked. Carlos Beltran grounded into a double play, but Furcal scored to give the Cardinals an early, 1-0 lead.
"He was maybe just a tick off command-wise," Hurdle said. "He kept making pitches, he kept coming after them."
David Freese drove in two runs in the third after Furcal doubled and Greene walked. Bedard retired Holliday and Beltran, but Freese hit a two-out single on a 3-2 count to put the Cardinals up, 3-0.
After that, Bedard prevented the Cardinals from inflicting more damage. He pitched four scoreless innings and allowed two more hits.
"I just kept throwing [my pitches] until they hit the strike zone," Bedard said. "They got better as the game went on."
Bedard escaped trouble in the fifth, when Furcal walked to start the inning. He struck out Greene and Holliday, but Furcal stole second and Beltran walked. Bedard, however, got Freese to ground into a forceout.
"He just settled in," catcher Michael McKenry said of Bedard.
"He's a guy with tremendous stuff. He just competed and threw all of his pitches for strikes after the first inning."
Bedard pitched a perfect seventh and finished with 102 pitches.
"That's one of our goals, is to extend pitch counts, get them up over 100, keep pushing that forward," Hurdle said. "He felt good."
The Pirates didn't score until the eighth. McKenry hit a rare fastball up in the zone off the Clemente Wall, and McGehee's single up the middle scored him to cut the Cardinals' lead to 3-1.
Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse (3-0) continued his impressive early season performance, allowing one run on six hits in seven-plus innings. He did not walk a batter, struck out five and finished with his ERA still under 1.00.
"It was a steady mix," McKenry said of Lohse. "You didn't know what was coming. He was throwing 2-1 sliders and curveballs.
"He was keeping us on our toes, and that's what you've got to do as a pitcher."
Evan Meek allowed two runs on three hits in the ninth. Meek has now allowed eight hits and five runs in seven innings this season.
The Pirates have a chance to alter the storyline tonight when they begin a three-game series at home against the Colorado Rockies, who had allowed a National League-worst 5.43 runs per game entering Sunday.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published April 23, 2012 4:00 AM