PITTSBURGH (AP)—Tony La Russa got the first of what could be several champagne showers this season. He can only hope the next one comes in very late October.
La Russa passed Sparky Anderson to move into third place on the manager wins list in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night, helped along by Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols homers in the first inning.
The Pirates have lost 10 of 13 to the Cardinals, accelerating La Russa’s climb during a season in which he has passed some of baseball’s all-time best— Anderson, Bucky Harris and Joe McCarthy.
Afterward, La Russa had a surprise visitor: former White Sox general manager Roland Hemond, who hired him for his first big league job during the 1979 season. Hemond and Jim Leyland, who was on La Russa’s White Sox staff when La Russa was hired as Pittsburgh’s manager in 1985, joined the Cardinals players in dousing La Russa with champagne.
“I’ve always felt it’s not personal, it’s organizational and being in the right place at the right time,” said La Russa, who won his only World Series with Oakland in 1989, though he got the Cardinals there last season before losing to Boston. “But tonight I’m going to take a little personal tour. It was a very emotional day.”
La Russa’s victory No. 2,195—he trails only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763)—was Matt Morris’ 101st in the majors, and it came in the home away from home for both the Cardinals and the right-hander. The Cardinals’ 30 victories at 5-year-old PNC Park are the most of any opponent. St. Louis has won 17 of its last 20 in Pittsburgh, including three of four in this just-concluded series.
“I don’t know if too many guys really understand it,” Edmonds said of La Russa’s accomplishment. “The two guys ahead of him obviously managed for a long time, so it’s a nice milestone. Hopefully he can manage five or six more years and get to be second. I don’t think anybody’s going to catch Connie Mack.”
“We had to get a win for him to celebrate,” Pujols said. “I’m very sure before he retires he’s going to shoot for that No. 1 record, because he always wants to be on top.”
To overtake Mack, the 60-year-old La Russa would have to manage until he’s 81 or 82.
Morris (14-5) has more wins in Pittsburgh than some of the Pirates’ own pitchers, going 6-0 in seven starts there and 2-0 this season. He lasted seven innings despite allowing two runs and nine hits, stranding five runners from the fifth through the seventh innings and seven overall.
Pujols and Edmonds clearly like playing in Pittsburgh, too. Pujols’ 35th homer of the season followed four pitches after Edmonds’ 22nd to put the Cardinals up 2-0 against Dave Williams (10-10).
Pujols’ homer was his 16th at PNC—an average of more than three per season and by far by most of any opposing player, while Edmonds’ was his ninth there. Pujols, who went 3-for-4 and reached base four times, has 25 homers in 295 career at-bats against Pittsburgh.
Manager Lloyd McClendon didn’t like Williams’ pitch selection in the first, which led to him allowing his 19th and 20th homers, too many for a control pitcher who doesn’t have an overpowering fastball.
“It’s not hard to explain, it’s hard to accept,” McClendon said. “When you’re a finesse pitcher, you can’t pitch in the middle of the plate.”
The Pirates, losing their fifth in six games, got a run back in the first on rookie Chris Duffy’s triple and Freddy Sanchez’s groundout. But Pujols singled in the fifth for his third hit, all off Williams, and scored on John Rodriguez’s two-out single. Yadier Molina, who had doubled one batter before, was thrown out at the plate on the play by center fielder Duffy.
Molina isn’t ready to say goodbye yet to the Pirates, either, going 21-of-50 (.420) against them with three homers and 14 RBIs in 13 games. He followed Edmonds’ RBI double off Williams in the seventh with a run-scoring single, making it 5-2, and So Taguchi had a run-scoring single in the ninth.
Edmonds also played a pivotal role with his glove. The Pirates had threatened by loading the bases in the fifth against Morris, but Edmonds ran down Jason Bay’s drive to deep center. An inning later, Ty Wigginton singled in a run with his third hit, but Edmonds prevented any further scoring with a sliding catch of Jack Wilson’s line drive into the right-center gap with two outs and a runner on.
“If he’s not the best center fielder in baseball, he’s tied for it,” McClendon said.
Pittsburgh made it 5-3 in the eighth on Wilson’s RBI single off Julian Tavarez, the second of three Cardinals pitchers in the inning, but closer Jason Isringhausen struck out rookie Nate McLouth looking with runners on first and third. Isringhausen finished up in the ninth for his 34th save in 37 opportunities.
Morris has a 2.65 career ERA in Pittsburgh. … Pujols started the series 0-for-7, but is hitting .353 (18-of-51) against Pittsburgh this season. … Morris had been 2-3 with a 5.53 ERA since the All-Star break. … St. Louis is 40-22 on the road, a better record than all but two NL teams (Atlanta and Houston) have at home.