St. Louis (38-26) at Pittsburgh (26-40)

Fair Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 67° F
  • Game info: 12:35 pm EDT Thu Jun 15, 2006
  • TV: FSMW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Taking a chance on a pitcher who lost 13 games last season is starting to pay dividends for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Victor Santos looks to continue his recent turnaround when the Pirates wrap up a three-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on Thursday.

Santos (4-6, 4.50 ERA) was acquired in December from Kansas City via the Rule 5 draft after going 4-13 with Milwaukee last season. Players left off the 40-man roster within three or four years of their original signing are available to other teams as Rule 5 picks.

Such picks must be kept in the major leagues the entire following season by the new team or be offered back to the former club for half of the $50,000 selection price.

Given his recent outings, Santos is becoming a good investment for Pittsburgh (26-40).

In his last four appearances, including a relief effort in an 18-inning win over Houston on May 27, the right-hander is 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA. He had been 1-5 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 previous starts.

“Victor has done a nice job for us,” said Pirates manager Jim Tracy. “Victor has slowly but surely taken positive steps forward.”

Against the Giants on Thursday, Santos allowed two runs and four hits over seven innings in a 3-2 victory.

But he has not fared well against St. Louis (38-26). Santos is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in his career versus the Cardinals.

He limited St. Louis to two runs and two hits through six innings of a 4-0 loss on April 19 at PNC Park.

Mark Mulder (5-4, 5.20) will try to recover from his shortest outing of the season when he takes the mound for St. Louis against an opponent which has never defeated him.

The left-hander lasted just three innings Thursday against Milwaukee, allowing six runs and five hits with three walks, but did not get a decision as the Cardinals rallied for a 10-6 win.

“Being down six, you’re not going to win that game very often. He was better than the six runs on the board,” La Russa said of Mulder, who has given up 22 runs and 27 hits in his last 14 innings.

Since beating the New York Mets on May 17, the left-hander is 0-3 with a 9.74 ERA in four starts.

In his only appearance of the season against Pittsburgh, Mulder issued a season-high five walks over 7 2-3 innings, but did not record a decision in a 4-3 win on April 26. Mulder is 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA in seven career starts versus the Pirates.

Last-place Pittsburgh got a rare win against NL Central-leading St. Louis with a 9-7 victory on Tuesday. Second baseman Jose Castillo doubled, homered and drove in four runs for the Pirates, who are 2-6 against the Cardinals this season and 6-18 since the start of 2005.

With Albert Pujols still on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, Scott Rolen continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-5 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs scored in the loss.

For the series, Rolen has seven hits in nine at-bats. He leads the NL with a .358 batting average. He is 2-for-9 with a double, a walk and a strikeout in his career against Santos.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Mulder LAA vs. V. Santos SF
6-7 Record 5-9
7.14 ERA 5.70
50 K 81
35 BB 42
1.70 WHIP 1.66