Cardinals 11, Pirates 5
Mulder won his seventh straight decision and the Cardinals won for the ninth time in his 10 starts overall in an 11-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday that completed a three-game sweep.
The lone loss came in Mulder’s second start of the year when he was struggling with his mechanics.
“I want to keep the team in position to win the game, that’s first and foremost my goal every time I pitch,” Mulder said. “If they score one, you’ve got to throw a shutout. That’s just the way it is.”
No shutout was necessary on Wednesday. Yadier Molina had career bests by going 4-for-4 with four RBIs and David Eckstein had a two-run homer and a sacrifice fly for the Cardinals, who have beaten the Pirates 12 straight times dating to last August. It’s their longest winning streak against Pittsburgh since they also won 12 straight from June 13, 1985 to June 17, 1986.
The final game of the three-game series was the Cardinals’ easiest by far after a 2-1, 12-inning victory on Tuesday and a 4-2 win in Monday’s opener.
“This was a very, very bad series,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’ve got to put it behind us. We’ve got to get ready for Cincinnati now.”
Mulder (7-1) gave up three runs and six hits in seven innings with three strikeouts and one walk. He is 7-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his last eight starts after two shaky outings to begin the season. He’s also 4-0 against the Pirates for his career, plus he singled in the sixth for his second hit in 21 at-bats with St. Louis.
“I’ve been putting up some zeros early in the game and guys have been scoring runs for me, so I’ve had leads,” Mulder said. “It obviously makes it a lot easier to pitch.”
Molina, who got the winning hit on Tuesday, doubled and scored in the third and had a two-run single in a four-run fourth that put the Cardinals ahead 6-0. He doubled and scored in the sixth and hit a two-run single in the seventh. After a 1-for-31 start to the season, the Cardinals’ new starting catcher has hit .320 to raise his overall average to .252.
“He had a clutch day,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s hit every place he’s gone, he takes his at-bats seriously and he has a nice stroke.”
Freddy Sanchez had a pinch-hit two-run double and Ty Wigginton hit two homers for the Pirates, who have lost four in a row and six of eight. This was the first time in the eight-game span they did not score first.
Wigginton’s second homer was a two-run shot off Gabe White in the ninth.
Pirates starter Mark Redman (3-4) endured his worst outing of the season, failing to work at least six innings for the first time. After a promising start with six groundball outs in a perfect first and second, Eckstein hit a two-run homer in the third and Redman faced 10 batters in the fourth.
“When (Albert) Pujols came up to bat for the second time, I knew then it had snowballed on me,” Redman said. “I know there would be a day like this come eventually, but I sure didn’t want it to come today.”
In his previous two starts, Redman had been 2-0 with two runs allowed in 15 1-3 innings.
The Cardinals had 14 hits, and three players ended droughts. Jim Edmonds had been 0-for-11 before an RBI double in the fourth, Mark Grudzielanek was 2-for-22 before a bases-loaded infield hit in the fourth and John Mabry was 0-for-14 before a pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth.
Mulder is 71-5 in 86 career starts when his team scores at least four runs. … The Cardinals have won five of six overall, and have a five-game winning streak at home. … Eckstein’s homer ended a stretch of 41 innings without one for the Cardinals. … Molina is batting .500 (11-for-22) against the Pirates. … For the first time in 16 games, the Pirates never held a lead. … David Ross of the Pirates singled in the third to end an 0-for-15 slump.