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Pirates sweep Cards, who lose Molina to knee injury

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates have been talking about their improved depth since the first day of spring training.

That organizational strength was on display Tuesday night when the Pirates swept a doubleheader from the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park in a matchup between the top two teams in the National League.

Alex Presley's RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning gave the Pirates a 2-1 victory in the first game. In the nightcap, rookie Brandon Cumpton pitched seven scoreless innings for his first major league victory, and Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run home run to spark the Pirates to a 6-0 win.

The Pirates have moved to the top of the NL Central standings, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals, by winning the first three games of the five-game set. The Cardinals lost their sixth straight game.

"I've had a lot of birthdays, and a lot of them have been spent at the ballpark," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who turned 56 on Tuesday. "This one was pretty special. We received a lot of contributions from a lot of different people."

Making matters worse for the Cardinals is that All-Star catcher Yadier Molina suffered a sprained knee in the third inning of the second game and said he is likely headed to the disabled list.

"The smart thing to do is give my knee some time to rest," said Molina, who was also bothered by the knee in June. "Like anybody else, I want to be a guy who is out there on the field playing, but I need to give it some time."

The Pirates, who haven't had a winning season since 1992, won for the fourth time in five games to move 22 games over .500 at 64-42, which is the best record in the major leagues.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the sweep was that the two heroes were playing at Triple-A Indianapolis just two days earlier. Presley was recalled Monday, a day ahead of Cumpton.

"We have plenty of guys at Indianapolis who can help if they get the chance," Presley said. "We really showed tonight how many good players are in this organization now. We basically had two different lineups in the two games and won both."

Cumpton (1-1) allowed just three hits in his fourth career start, walking one and striking out five. He retired the last nine batters he faced.

"When I found out that I was coming up to pitch this game, all the guys (at Indianapolis) were telling me it was going to be the biggest game of my life," Cumpton said. "It was the biggest game of my life, and to be able to say I got my first major league win in a game this important is indescribable."

Jeanmar Gomez pitched two innings to complete the three-hit shutout. The Cardinals have been held to three runs so far in the series.

"If there was anything we could do, we'd be doing it already," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "We can sit and talk about hitting balls hard, but it's all about wins and losses, and we need to start winning some games again."

McCutchen was one of four Pirates with two hits in the nightcap, along with Jordy Mercer, Gaby Sanchez and Josh Harrison.

St. Louis rookie left-hander Tyler Lyons (2-4) gave up four runs -- three earned -- and eight hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out five after being recalled from Triple-A Memphis before the game.

In the nightcap, the Pirates scored the game's first run in the second inning thanks to poor defense by the Cardinals. Jose Tabata reached on third baseman David Freese's fielding error with one out and eventually scored on Molina's passed ball.

The Pirates then made it 4-0 with a three-run fifth. Starling Marte scored on Mercer's single, and then McCutchen hit a two-run home run, his 15th, that bounced off left fielder Matt Holliday's glove and over the fence.

The Pirates scored twice more in the seventh on an RBI double by Gaby Sanchez and a sacrifice fly by Tony Sanchez.

In the opener, Russell Martin and pinch hitter Gaby Sanchez drew back-to-back walks from Kevin Siegrist (0-1) with one out in the 11th. Presley then hit a bouncer that deflected off Siegrist's glove and into center field, enabling Martin to score.

"When you get called up, you want to do something to help the team right away, and that was just awesome to get a big hit in a game that put us in first place," said Presley, who had two of Pittsburgh's six hits.

Vin Mazzaro (6-3) pitched one scoreless inning for the win. Presley had two of Pittsburgh's six hits.

Both starting pitchers were outstanding, though they didn't factor in the decision.

Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett allowed one run and three hits in seven innings with three walks and nine strikeouts. St. Louis' Lance Lynn gave up one run and three hits in six innings while striking out seven and walking two.

St. Louis center fielder Jon Jay's errorless games streak ended at 245, a club record for a Cardinals outfielder, in the fifth inning when he bobbled a single by Marte, allowing him to take an extra base.

NOTES: The Cardinals recalled RHP Michael Blazek and RHP Keith Butler from Memphis to give them fresh bullpen arms for the doubleheader. LHP Marc Rzepczynski and RHP Fernando Sales were optioned to Memphis. Rzepczynski was later traded to the Cleveland Indians for minor league INF Juan Herrera. ... Slumping St. Louis 1B Allen Craig did not start either game. He struck out as a pinch hitter in the first game, making him 0-for-18 with 10 strikeouts in his past six games. ... Pittsburgh C Tony Sanchez saw his first action behind the plate when he started the second game. Sanchez made his major league debut last month, and he appeared twice as the designated hitter in interleague road games. ... A pair of All-Stars square off Wednesday night as Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright (13-6, 2.51 ERA) faces Pirates LHP Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.15).

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