Since 1998, Pittsburgh (44-73) has swept a three-games series from slumping St. Louis (62-54) just once from June 28-30, 2004.
Freddy Sanchez, who leads the NL with a .344 batting average, had three hits that led to each of the Pirates’ runs in a 3-2 victory on Saturday night. Pittsburgh has won 10 of its last 14 at home.
“We make mistakes and we pay for them, but we’re a young team and we’re learning and it’s all going to come together—hopefully to finish out this year,” said Pirates starter Ian Snell, who went seven innings for the victory on Saturday.
Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer, his 35th of the season, to provide the only runs for the Cardinals, losers of 12 of their last 16. Pujols has 19 homers at PNC Park, the most of any opposing player, and is batting .542 (13-for-24) against Pittsburgh this season.
However, nobody else has stepped up to help him. The Cardinals had just four hits besides Pujols’ home run.
The loss combined with Cincinnati’s 9-7 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night trimmed the Cardinals’ lead to 2 1/2 games over the Reds.
“We’re not going to single the guy out, make like Albert’s great and the other guys weren’t,” manager Tony La Russa said. “There weren’t that many balls hit hard. We’re capable of doing more than we did.”
Maholm has pitched effectively over his last five starts but has little to show for it. He’s allowed four runs or less in each start during that span, but is only 1-2 with a 3.90 ERA in that span.
He lost 3-1 to Houston on Tuesday, allowing three runs and five hits in six innings. Pittsburgh has scored only 13 runs in his last five outings.
Maholm lost 2-1 on April 17 to Jason Marquis(12-10, 5.82), who starts Sunday’s finale for the Cardinals looking to avoid his second four-start losing streak of the season.
He’s lasted longer than four innings only once during his current slide and was removed after 2 2-3 innings from Tuesday’s 10-3 loss to Cincinnati after allowing four runs and nine hits.
“I don’t know what he was doing out there today,” La Russa said. “He was out there just firing. I’m not sure why he thought that was the way to go about it. It was like he was thinking he could overpower them.”
Marquis has been inconsistent most of the season. He lost four in a row from April 23-May 8, but has also had winning streaks of three and four games.
The right-hander is 3-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 13 appearances, including nine starts, against Pittsburgh.