Cardinals 3, Pirates 1

Preview | Box Score | Recap

ST. LOUIS (AP)—Last year, Braden Looper was a setup man and Yadier Molina batted .216.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ best starter and it’s newest offensive threat helped complete a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Looper won for the third time in four outings, and Molina extended his hitting streak to 15 games and had two RBIs in a 3-1 victory on Thursday. Looper was tied for the NL lead with six victories, while Molina’s average climbed to .304.

The catcher, one of the team’s surprise hitting stars in the postseason, is batting .373 (19-for-51) during his streak. It’s the team’s longest since Albert Pujols had a 17-game run in 2005.

“I’m just trying to swing at good pitches,” Molina said. “If I wait for my pitch and make a good swing, the results are going to be better.”

Looper (6-3) is the de facto ace for a team missing Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder. He rebounded from a shaky start in Detroit, one of only two clunkers in his first 10 starts.

“That fifth day comes around a little faster than I thought it would,” Looper said. “For the most part you try to forget about it, go to work and get everything done.

“I felt real good and hopefully I feel as good next time.”

Both of the Cardinals’ sweeps this season have come against the Pirates, the other on the road in April. Before the series, the defending World Series champions had lost five in a row and were nine games below .500.

“I see a lot more smiles on guys’ faces and music in the locker room,” closer Jason Isringhausen said. “It’s not quiet, so that’s a start.”

Jose Bautista’s homer ended a 41-inning long ball drought for the Pirates, who have lost five in a row and seven of nine. Pittsburgh was 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and two outs in the series.

“If we could get something going offensively and get that big at-bat, it would do wonders for us,” manager Jim Tracy said. “We can’t get it right now.”

Looper allowed only two other hits in six innings. He had thrown 21 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings against the Pirates before Bautista’s homer, a ball he referred to as “wind-blown,” and is 5-0 with a 1.41 ERA in five day starts.

Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny (5-3) bruised his left thumb deflecting Aaron Miles’ smash up the middle with one out in the sixth, an infield hit that loaded the bases. Gorzelanny was removed from the game after 118 pitches. X-rays were negative and the left-hander is not expected to miss a turn in the rotation.

“I guess you could say it was scary, but I’m fine,” Gorzelanny said. “It’s just a pretty bad bruise.”

Gorzelanny, who limited the Cardinals to one run in 15 1-3 innings in two April starts, gave up two runs on 10 hits. He failed to finish six innings for only the fourth time in his last 18 starts.

“It was one of those days where the balls were just falling in,” Gorzelanny said. “You can’t really control it. You make a pitch that you think is good and it falls in for a hit. That’s how this game works sometimes.”

The Cardinals scored two runs on five hits in the second, missing a chance for more when Scott Rolen was an easy out going for a leadoff double and David Eckstein hit a two-out ground-rule double that would have easily scored Miles from first.

The big hits came from the bottom of the order with Molina’s RBI double, the third straight hit in the inning, giving the Cardinals the lead. Miles followed with a run-scoring bloop single.

Gorzelanny escaped a bases-loaded situation in the fourth after singles by So Taguchi and Miles and a walk to Looper. He struck out Eckstein for the third out.

Bautista cut the deficit in half when he led off the sixth with his third homer, a drive on a 2-1 pitch that barely cleared the wall in left.

Jason Isringhausen, St. Louis’ fifth pitcher, worked a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 13 chances. He’s 24 for 26 for his career against the Pirates.

Notes

The Cardinals are 39-17 against the Pirates the last four seasons. … St. Louis has eight homers in May, worst in the majors. Pittsburgh has 12 this month, entering the game next to last. … St. Louis pitchers hit three batters in a span of six at-bats in the seventh, and reliever Tyler Johnson hit two of the three batters he faced, departing after plunking Chris Duffy to start the eighth.

Related Articles

Scoreboard

Thursday, May 24