PITTSBURGH (AP)—Maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates could learn something about patience and persistence from Cardinals rookie Chris Duncan. Even if the first at-bat of a game goes badly, there will be chances later to make up for it.
Duncan tripled and doubled to key a pair of two-run rallies and St. Louis won despite another subpar start by Mark Mulder, beating the Pirates 6-5 Thursday.
Mulder (6-4), coming off three consecutive ineffective outings, lasted five innings and got the win despite giving up nine hits and four runs, including solo homers by Jose Bautista and Jose Castillo. Mulder has permitted 23 earned runs and 36 hits in 19 innings over his last four starts, a 10.89 ERA.
But, as usual, Mulder beat the Pirates—he is 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA in eight career starts against a team that struggles against St. Louis. The Cardinals are 34-12 in Pittsburgh since PNC Park opened in 2001 and have won 12 of their last 16 series against the Pirates, losing one and splitting three.
“I think he took another step forward,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “They took a couple of balls deep, but he made adjustments. Overall, he made a lot of good pitches to limit the damage early.”
The Pirates led 2-1 before Duncan tripled, and Gary Bennett and Mulder walked ahead of So Taguchi’s two-out single off Victor Santos (4-7) in the fourth. An inning later, Duncan followed Juan Encarnacion’s single and Hector Luna’s walk to tie it at 4 with a double off reliever Ryan Vogelsong. Bennett’s run-scoring groundout made it 5-4.
The Cardinals added another run in the sixth on Scott Rolen’s RBI single, his eighth hit of the three-game series.
Duncan, called up from the minors last month for the second time this season, struck out to leave the bases loaded in the first before getting three consecutive hits.
“A lot of guys would be hiding after that first at-bat,” La Russa said. “That’s another thing you hear from every manager that he’s played for, he’s a very tough individual. That’s one reason I think he’s going to be an impact guy, he’s got talent and he’s very tough.”
The Pirates had plenty of chances against Mulder and three relievers, also getting a homer from Jeromy Burnitz—his third in six at-bats as a pinch hitter. But they left eight on base.
“It was a weird game, because it felt like every sinker I threw they were all over it—like they knew it was coming,” Mulder said. “Both (homers) were on fastballs over the middle of the plate, and the reality is anyone in the big leagues should hit those. They were sitting on a tee there for them.”
Pittsburgh had a chance to go ahead following La Russa’s gamble to allow reliever Adam Wainwright to bat for himself in the seventh with two on and two outs in a one-run game. Wainwright grounded out, then let the Pirates load the bases on Jack Wilson’s single and two walks. But Mulder got Castillo on the third flyout of the inning to center fielder Jim Edmonds.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Castillo said.
The Pirates are 7-20 in one-run games, the most such losses in the majors.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Jason Bay, who was 1-for-5 and hit into a game-ending double play in the ninth.
Braden Looper followed Wainwright’s two scoreless innings with a perfect eighth. Jason Isringhausen finished for his 22nd save in 26 opportunities and club-record 162nd with the Cardinals. He broke Lee Smith’s record of 160 on Tuesday night.
Santos was coming off a series of strong outings in which he gave up six runs in five games, but was lifted after allowing five runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings. Vogelsong didn’t help, allowing both of the runners he inherited from Santos to score in the fifth.
“It seemed like there were always men on base,” said bench coach Jim Lett, who filled in as Pirates manager with Jim Tracy in California attending his youngest son’s high school graduation.
Duncan was lifted for pinch-hitter Aaron Miles in the ninth despite being 3-for-4. … The Cardinals are 21-8 in day games; the Pirates are 1-10 in home day games. … The Pirates haven’t won a series against St. Louis since sweeping three games June 28-30, 2004, in Pittsburgh. … Burnitz, bothered recently by a sore left calf, has 10 homers overall. … Mulder has given up 10 runs and 14 hits in eight innings over his last two starts.