Pirates drop further below Cardinals with 9-2 loss in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS -- On a Pirates pitching change Sunday in the fifth inning, in the middle of a St. Louis Cardinals rally, the entertainment crew at Busch Stadium blared Cheap Trick's "Surrender."

It was an apropos request. The Cardinals would bat around in the inning en route to a 9-2 win against the Pirates, completing a series sweep in which they scored 26 total runs and held the Pirates to 10, eight of which came in the first game. The Pirates were scoreless for 17 innings before pushing across two runs Sunday in the ninth inning.

"We beat their butts at our place," Garrett Jones said, "and now they got us back here."

The Pirates, losers of four in a row, left St. Louis down 11/2 games to the Cardinals in the National League Central Division.

"We know what we need to do," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We weren't sharp in any particular area of the game all weekend. They were much sharper than us across the board. It's very difficult to win a game when you're not functioning."

In keeping with the trajectory of the weekend, the Pirates lost Charlie Morton, their best starter in the past month, because of an injury to his left foot.

Morton left the game in the second after bouncing a changeup in front of the plate for ball four to Carlos Beltran. The Pirates said Morton hurt his foot when he covered the plate as a runner on third broke for home.

Pitching coach Ray Searage visited Morton on the mound alone at first before Hurdle and trainer Todd Tomczyk joined them. Morton flew back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation and was unavailable for comment after the game.

The injury occurred at the end of Morton's outing. Before leaving, he lacked the effectiveness that gave him a 1.74 ERA in his past six starts. In 12/3 innings, Morton (7-4) allowed five runs on six hits and two walks. The Cardinals were ready for his fastball and teed off on it, hitting three doubles in the second. Morton threw some good curveballs, but could not command his changeup.

Once again the Cardinals' run production was gravy because their starting pitcher didn't budge. Michael Wacha mowed through the Pirates lineup with ease. He yielded one hit, a bloop double from Jordy Mercer that hopped into the stands, through the first six innings. He did not allow another until Andrew McCutchen singled in the seventh.

Wacha (3-0) used four pitches, but relied on his fastball, which he ran up to 97 mph. In seven scoreless innings, he allowed two hits.

"There was a little deception in the way he threw," said Jones, who hit an RBI double in the ninth. "[The fastball] kind of jumps at you a little bit. Had a good angle, a down angle. It adds a little sink to his fastball."

For the second time in three games, the Cardinals jumped ahead early. Leadoff man Matt Carpenter and No. 2 hitter Jon Jay each had a hit and scored in their first two at-bats. The Cardinals led, 2-0, after the first, 5-0 after the second.

The Cardinals doubled three times against Morton in the second. Carpenter and Jay each doubled to drive in a run, and Jay scored on a wild pitch, Morton's final delivery of the game.

"These guys came out swinging the bats," Jones said. "They attacked us and didn't miss their pitch. We need to bounce back quick and hopefully we'll get it going in Texas and get back on a roll."

Ten Cardinals came to the plate in the fifth and four of them scored, giving the Cardinals a 9-0 lead. Wacha's single off Vin Mazzaro scored two runs and Matt Holliday drove in another. For the second time in the series, the Pirates needed three pitchers to complete one inning.

"[Mazzaro] wasn't sharp, the slider didn't tilt, there wasn't the depth to it," Hurdle said. "He made some mistakes over the middle of the plate, especially one to the pitcher."

The Pirates travel south to meet the Texas Rangers, another team locked in a dogfight for a division lead, in a three-game series starting today at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Bad news for the Pirates offense -- Rangers ace Yu Darvish, the league leader in strikeouts, takes the mound tonight.

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 8, 2013 10:00 PM


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