ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals beat the Pirates, 5-4, in the opener of a four-game series between the two teams tonight at Busch Stadium before a crowd of 42,791.
The Cardinals (33-23) got some key hits and runs early and then cruised to the victory behind starting pitcher Todd Wellemeyer, who pitched seven innings and allowed only one run on six hits.
The Pirates had several opportunities to make it a game but couldn't come up with clutch hits -- until it was too late -- and left eight runners on base.
Nate McClouth gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead with a two-out homer in the top of the first but the Cardinals came right back and took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer to center field by first baseman Albert Pujols.
The Cardinals added a third run in the bottom of the second thanks mostly to Duke's throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by Brian Barton.
Yadier Molina had led off the inning with a single and Barton attempted to sacrifice bunt him to second. Duke fielded the bunt then made a bad throw which rolled past first baseman Adam LaRoche and allowed Molina to advance to third and Barton to advance to second.
Molina then scored on a sacrifice fly by pitcher Todd Wellemeyer.
St. Louis added a fourth and fifth run in the bottom of the seventh on RBI singles by Cesar Izturis and Joe Mather off of Pirates reliever Tyler Yates.
The Cardinals got started in the inning with a triple by Rick Ankiel and also took advantage of a throwing error by Pirates catcher Raul Chavez.
Pittsburgh rallied in the top of the ninth for three runs but the inning -- and game -- ended when Nate McClouth grounded out.
The Pirates also wasted a solid start by Zach Duke who went six innings, gave up five hits and only two earned runs. Duke (2-4) did, however, make a throwing error in the second inning that led the Cardinals third-run.
Paul Zeise can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1720.