ST. LOUIS -- An ugly ninth-inning error caused the Pirates to lose a game they had led since the first inning.
Starling Marte let a fly ball bounce off the heel of his glove in the ninth inning, allowing the eventual tying-run to reach base, and Adron Chambers hit a walk-off single in the 14th as the Cardinals beat the Pirates, 4-3, Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.
"I feel bad because I feel like I cost the game," Marte said, as translated by bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade. "I don't want that to happen to anybody, but it happened to me."
With one out in the ninth inning, Daniel Descalso hit a fly ball toward left-center field. Marte said he had a good route to the ball, and he didn't take his eye off it.
"Overconfidence," he said.
Three batters later, Allen Craig singled to right field, scoring Descalso to tie things, 3-3.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Marte was "probably not in a good place" mentally after the error.
"There are some hard lessons learned up here from time to time," he said.
It was the first blown save for Mark Melancon since he inherited the closer's duties from Jason Grilli, who sustained a flexor strain July 22. The run, however, was unearned.
The Pirates (70-48) have now lost four consecutive games and lead the Cardinals (68-50) by two games for first place in the National League Central Division.
"It was a loss," Hurdle said. "It was one loss. Our job now is to bounce back, not to magnify it or overcook it or go anywhere else with it."
Another defensive miscue helped the Cardinals earn a walk-off win in the 14th inning. Jon Jay hit a one-out single with a ball that snuck through Clint Barmes' legs at shortstop. Barmes said he tried to move in on the low line drive before it bounced, so at the very least he could knock it down and throw Jay out at first.
"Off his bat, it was kind of hooking back a little bit towards me," Barmes said. "So I moved that way to try, and as soon as I moved it was just enough to hit off my thumb and kicks off into the outfield."
Jay stole second and scored when Chambers knocked a line drive single to left field, barely beating a throw home from Marte.
While the defense struggled at times, the Pirates offense didn't help much, either. After scoring three early runs, the bats went blank, stranding 11 runners and going scoreless for the game's final 12 innings.
"Plenty of chances tonight," Andrew McCutchen said. "Plenty of chances."
They had the potential go-ahead runner in scoring position in the 10th and 11th innings but failed to drive him in.
And in the 13th, they had the potential go-ahead run at third base with no outs. But McCutchen did not break for home when Russell Martin hit a ground ball to shortstop -- a ball that Pete Kozma had to dive to get -- and he was later stranded when Josh Harrison hit into an inning-ending double play.
Hurdle and McCutchen said there was no call to run on contact in a situation like that, in case the lead runner is thrown out at home or in case there is a line drive that doubles up a runner at third.
"It's a situation where you don't want to go on contact," McCutchen said.
The Pirates jumped out to an early lead by smacking a pair of home runs off Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who had allowed just two home runs in 10 previous starts at Busch Stadium this season.
McCutchen belted a two-run homer in the first inning, and Jordy Mercer smacked a solo shot in the second as the Pirates climbed out to a 3-0 lead.
After the Pirates roughed up Wainwright early, he settled in and took command of the game. He lasted seven innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits, striking out six and walking three. He never allowed more than one baserunner in any of the final five innings he pitched.
Pirates starter Charlie Morton allowed two earned runs on seven hits in six innings. In his most recent outing against the Cardinals earlier this month at PNC Park, he was battered for a season-high five earned runs on 10 hits in six innings.
Morton struck out three batters and walked two, and while he struggled at times to keep runners off the bases, he managed, for the most part, to keep those runners from scoring.
The Cardinals cut the Pirates lead to one run in the sixth inning. They started the inning with three consecutive ground ball singles, loading the bases with no outs. David Freese hit into a broken-bat double play, which scored Carlos Beltran. And Jay followed Freese with a line-drive single to left field, scoring Craig to make it 3-2.breaking - pirates
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published August 14, 2013 5:30 AM