PITTSBURGH (AP)—Tony La Russa said he did. Matt Capps(notes) and Albert Pujols(notes) said he didn’t. Even if the pitch that hit Pujols didn’t get away from Capps, the first-place St. Louis Cardinals took yet another game away from the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates.
Skip Schumaker’s(notes) first career pinch-hit home run started a five-run eighth-inning rally for St. Louis that included Capps’ ejection for hitting Pujols, and the Cardinals completed a three-game sweep by winning 7-3 Sunday.
The Pirates lost a 3-2 lead in the eighth while dropping their eighth in a row, all at home. They are two losses away from their longest home losing streak since PNC Park opened in 2001, a 10-game run in 2005.
Capps (2-7), who normally doesn’t pitch until the ninth, replaced Zach Duke(notes) with one on and one out in the eighth to try to close it out. After fouling off a pitch, Schumaker hit a drive into the right-field seats for his fourth homer and a 4-3 lead as many in the crowd of 24,364 booed the latest Pirates bullpen failure.
“I don’t hit too many anyway, so whenever I hit them I’m pretty happy,” Schumaker said. “I didn’t know I was going to pinch hit, but you never know what Tony is going to do and it worked out this time.”
Capps threw a strike to Pujols before hitting the major league RBIs leader with a pitch in the ribs. Pujols glared toward Capps but didn’t make a move toward the mound, and home plate umpire Mike Estabrook immediately ejected Capps although no other batter in the game had been hit. Pirates manager John Russell argued briefly.
“I think he (Estabrook) read it exactly right, I think it was an intentional hit and there’s no doubt in my mind it came from the bench, and I really believe it didn’t come from the manager,” La Russa said. “Don’t ask me to expound on that. It was intentional, it came from the bench and it wasn’t the manager who ordered it.”
La Russa apparently thought it was ordered by pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, but he wasn’t available for comment. However, Pujols didn’t agree with his manager.
“I didn’t think he did it on purpose, but it happened after the home run,” Pujols said.
Capps said there was no reason to throw at Pujols in a one-run game, especially ahead in the count.
“Albert Pujols, he’s the classiest guy in baseball, he’s not a guy you’re going to intentionally hit, especially in that situation.” Capps said. “We were playing a good game. I understand I just gave up the homer, but I had him 0-1. I tried to go in and got too strong and it got away from me. I wasn’t happy he threw me out.”
The incident triggered the big inning by St. Louis, which swept the Pirates for the first time since Sept. 28-30, 2007. Ryan Ludwick(notes) followed Holliday’s single with a two-run double off Jesse Chavez(notes) and Khalil Greene(notes) had a run-scoring single.
The Pirates wasted an effective start by Zach Duke, who gave up three runs— two earned—over 7 1-3 innings while lowering his ERA to 3.40. Pineiro allowed nine hits over seven innings, but struck out six and walked none.
As usual, Duke didn’t get much help from a bullpen that gave up 30 runs in 30 2-3 innings as the Pirates went 3-7 during a homestand against the Nationals, Diamondbacks and Cardinals. They were outscored 33-6 from the seventh inning on.
“It’s not one guy, it seems it’s hit everybody down there, even our closer,” Russell said.
NOTES: Mark DeRosa(notes) (upper back tightness) was a last-minute scratch for St. Louis, creating a brief moment of confusion when the announced lineup was altered. The first two batters of the game were not announced to the crowd. … Pittsburgh has lost 13 of 15. … Pearce hit his second homer, but also threw wildly on a pickoff play to lead to a St. Louis run in the seventh. Duke’s own errant throw led to Holliday’s sacrifice fly in the fourth. … Pujols, his midsection wrapped, was asked how much the Capps pitch hurt. Pujols said, “I took a fastball in the rib cage at 95 (mph), that will tell you.”