A rookie pitcher, a fiery veteran, a couple outfield bloopers and a wild walk-off single in extras lifted the Pirates to a doubleheader sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday and into the best record in baseball.
The Pirates beat the Cardinals 2-1 in the first game and 6-0 in the second, turning a half-game deficit in the National League Central race into a 1 1/2 game lead in the span of a few hours. They also moved to a season-high 22 games over .500.
"This is a great baseball town," manager Clint Hurdle said. "This was a great baseball town for a long time. We're making every effort to make it a great baseball town again. ??? We've covered some distance, but we've got more to cover."
Rookie pitcher Brandon Cumpton pitched seven shutout innings against the best offense in the National League as the Pirates (64-42) beat the Cardinals (62-43), 6-0, in the second game of the doubleheader.
Cumpton struck out five batters, walked one and allowed three hits to earn his first career victory in a spot start for the Pirates. He was recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis earlier Tuesday to help the Pirates pitch through two games in one day.
It was the best start of Cumpton's career, which spans four outings, all of them spot starts.
Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday misplayed two balls in left field, including a fifth-inning, two-run homer that bounced off the heel of his glove and into the left field bleachers. It was the 15th home run of the season for Andrew McCutchen, and it gave the Pirates a 4-0 lead.
In the next inning, Holliday slammed into the wall about three feet away from where Josh Harrison's ball connected with the padding as Harrison scampered to a leadoff triple.
For the rest of the game, Holliday was heckled by many of the 33,861 in attendance, especially those in the left field bleachers who, apparently, took advantage of 17 uninterrupted innings of beer sales.
Gaby Sanchez went 2 for 3 with an RBI a run and a walk.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published July 31, 2013 3:30 AM