The Pittsburgh Pirates were swept at home by the St. Louis Cardinals last week. On Tuesday, the Pirates look to return the favor when they close out their two-game series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The Pirates (5-6) beat the Cardinals for the first time in four meetings on Monday, finally surviving a late St. Louis rally similar to the ones that cost Pittsburgh two games in its home-opening series.
Trailing by one run, the Cardinals (6-6) loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth against Pittsburgh closer Salomon Torres, who gave up three earned runs in two innings spanning two appearances against the Cardinals in Pittsburgh.
“I want to have my last at-bat back,” Pujols told the Cardinals’ official Web site after falling to 1-for-12 this season with runners in scoring position.
The Pirates snapped a four-game losing streak overall, but improved to 5-2 on the road. They hope to continue that success against a St. Louis team that is just 1-5 at home this season after going 49-31 there last year en route to an NL Central title and eventual World Series championship.
The Cardinals are batting just .236 at home, and have scored more than two runs in only one of their six games there. Pujols, a .345 hitter at home in 2006, is batting .130 (3-for-23) at Busch this season.
Pittsburgh has had its own problems at the plate. The Pirates are batting .231 overall, and only .200 with runners in scoring position.
“I have to say that we are having pretty good at-bats and we’re just running into some pitching right now that’s been good pitching,” hitting coach Jeff Manto told the team’s official Web site. “I don’t think we felt overmatched, but we’ve left some runners out there quite a bit. On the whole, we feel good about ourselves and are looking forward to each and every night.”
Offseason acquisition Adam LaRoche is one of the primary offenders. The first baseman, who hit .285 with 32 homers and 90 RBIs for Atlanta last season, went 1-for-4 on Monday to raise his average to .105 (4-for-38) with 15 strikeouts. He has only two RBIs in 10 games with the Pirates.
Catcher Ronny Paulino has also struggled, hitting just .189 (7-for-37) after batting .310 as a rookie last season.
LaRoche and Paulino both hope to bounce back in a stadium where they’ve had success in the past. LaRoche is batting .438 (7-for-16) with two home runs in his career at Busch, and Paulino is 7-for-18 (.389) there.
The Pirates send left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (1-0, 1.50 ERA) to the mound for the series finale. Last Tuesday against the Cardinals, Gorzelanny pitched seven innings of four-hit, shutout baseball, but didn’t factor in the decision as the Pirates lost 3-2 in 12 innings.
Adam Wainwright (1-0, 1.98) gets the start for the St. Louis, looking to defeat Pittsburgh for the second consecutive outing. The converted reliever gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings in the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory over the Pirates last Wednesday, earning his first career win as a starter.
This is Wainwright’s first career start at Busch Stadium, where he has a 2.84 lifetime ERA in 32 appearances.