Paul Maholm came within an inning of a shutout and Nate McLouth came within a single of hitting for the cycle last night.
Those were the only areas where the Pirates came up short in posting a 10-2 victory against St. Louis in front of an announced crowd of 14,903 at soggy PNC Park.
Maholm, starting after a rain delay of 73 minutes, allowed three hits through eight innings before three consecutive hits in the ninth produced a Cardinals run and a fourth consecutive hit put him in the dugout.
The ninth inning runs he yielded were not a big disappointment for a pitcher who's one game over .500 for a team that's 25 games under .500.
"He was pretty much in control the whole game," manager John Russell said after the Pirates ended their six-game losing streak. "That's the consistency he's showed the whole year."
- Box score
- Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Adam Wainwright (9-3, 2.85) vs. RHP Jeff Karstens (2-5, 4.46).
- Key matchup: Karstens vs. PNC Park-itis. In his four starts at home for the Pirates, he is 0-4 and has allowed 27 hits -- including six home runs -- and 15 earned runs in 221/3 innings.
- Of note: In four starts since returning from the disabled list Aug. 22, Wainwright is 3-0 and has yielded only four walks and five earned runs in 251/3 innings.
Maholm also had two hits in a six-run fifth inning, starting the rally with a leadoff single and capping it with a two-run single.
Maholm is the first pitcher to have two hits in an inning since Philadelphia's Kyle Kendrick did it June 13 of this season.
He's the first Pirates pitcher to do it since Kip Wells had a single and double in a 17-10 win at Milwaukee Aug. 24, 2002.
"I hadn't gotten a hit in three or four months," said Maholm, who's 8 for 62 this season. "It's fun to get hits and go out on the bases, but I'll take the pitching."
McLouth, who walked in the first inning, hit a two-run home run in the third -- which gave him his 100th run scored -- lined a three-run double and scored in the fifth and tripled high off the Clemente Wall and scored in the sixth.
He batted again in the eighth and reached base -- this time, though, on a throwing error by second baseman Brian Barden.
"It would have been neat," McLouth said of hitting for the cycle, "but I'll take the result over that any day. It was a win we certainly needed."
"Nate really propelled our offense," Russell said. "We swung the bats much better, and we'll continue to build off that."
Russell would like this one to produce a string of victories during the final two weeks.
"You'd like to finish on a pretty strong note and have the players wishing it wasn't over as opposed to they can't wait to pack their bags to go home," Russell said. "It's what we've been striving for."
A strong, positive finish can have an impact on a club.
Take the 1987 Pirates, for example.
General manager Syd Thrift made a flurry of trades that year as the Pirates continued to lose and seemed headed for a fourth consecutive trip to last place in the National League East.
Aug. 23, they were 53-71. The next day, Thrift had what pitcher Bob Walk called a "cheer-us-up" meeting.
Thrift told that group that they now had their team, that all the trading was done. He asked them to set a goal as to the number of wins they would get in their remaining 38 games.
"Jim Gott was always 'Mr. Positive,' " Walk said, "and he jumped up and said we'd win 25 games. It was a ridiculous goal. We're like, 'Are you out of your mind?' It kind of turned out to be a little bit of a joke."
It also turned out to be, as Walk conceded, "kind of a big deal."
Those Pirates went 27-11 in their final 38 games, finished 80-82 and wound up tying Philadelphia for fourth place by sweeping a season-ending three-game series from the Phillies.
"We were whooping and hollering like we won the playoffs," Walk said.
That successful sprint to the finish carried over into the 1988 season. Little question the foundation for that success was laid in the final fourth of the 1987 season.
"You could see it was there," Walk said. "The nucleus of the team was there -- the future superstars."
Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, Chico Lind, Doug Drabek ...
"It was just a matter of them playing better -- and they did," Walk said. "But that finish [in 1987] certainly helped. Heck, a good spring training can carry into the season. You can say there's no momentum in baseball, but there IS confidence.
"That team really gained a lot of confidence. Everybody felt very positive."
First Published September 13, 2008 4:15 AM