Pirates 6, Cardinals 5

Little-used Pedro Ciriaco became the most unlikely of opponents
to damage the St. Louis Cardinals’ playoff chances.

Ciriaco hit a tiebreaking double to cap a three-run rally in the
eighth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates stunned St. Louis 6-5 on
Monday night, snapping the Cardinals’ season-high five-game winning
streak.

”It’s just a great feeling for him … after all the challenges
he’s had this year,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of
Ciriaco, sent back and forth from the minors six times this season.
”I think there was a point of time when he had more flights (to
Triple-A) than at-bats and we were trying to equal that out.

”He just battled. … It was a really good moment for him
personally and for our club.”

Albert Pujols hit his NL-leading 35th homer and drove in three
runs for St. Louis, which had won five in a row to climb back into
the wild-card race. The Cardinals remained 4 1/2 games behind
Atlanta, which lost to Florida 5-4 in 12 innings, but fell 6 1/2
back of first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.

St. Louis built a 4-3 lead against fourth-place Pittsburgh but
lost for the seventh time this season when leading after seven
innings.

”We weren’t going to go (16-0 the rest of the season),”
Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman said. ”The most important thing
for us is to worry about winning series. If we win this series,
then we’ve done our job.

”We still have that in front of us. We can win the series. It’s
unrealistic to say we’ve got to go 7-0 on this road trip. That
probably wasn’t going to happen. This wasn’t a death knell by any
means.”

Ryan Doumit, back in the lineup a day after he sustained a chest
bruise, tied it at 4 in the eighth with an RBI double off Marc
Rzepczynski (0-2). With the bases loaded and two outs, the
light-hitting Ciriaco hit a liner down the right-field line off
Fernando Salas for a two-run double and a 6-4 lead.

Ciriaco had 23 career at-bats over two seasons coming into the
game and had struck out on three pitches in the seventh. He had 17
at-bats this season and three times had stints of three days or
fewer with Pittsburgh.

Once last month, Ciriaco was in the airport heading for a
seventh trip back to Triple-A before a last-minute injury summoned
him back to the ballpark.

”It was a good feeling for me, especially to win the game,”
Ciriaco said. ”When you’re here, you want to stay here. You don’t
want to go down. I’m just trying to be more consistent and to be
here and stay here.”

Joel Hanrahan gave up a run in the ninth but held on for his
37th save, snapping Pittsburgh’s three-game skid. With runners at
second and third, the All-Star closer struck out pinch-hitter Corey
Patterson to end it with Pujols on deck.

Neil Walker went 3 for 4 with an RBI and Alex Presley had two
hits and scored two runs for the Pirates, two defeats shy of
guaranteeing a 19th straight losing season.

Jason Grilli (2-1) worked a perfect eighth for the win.

”We gave them a chance to come back, and they came back and
beat us,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Pujols’ home run off Brad Lincoln after Jon Jay led off the
sixth with a single gave the Cardinals their only lead. It was the
443rd homer of his career, moving him into sole possession of 37th
place.

Pujols has hit safely in 10 of 11 games played this month and
has four homers in his past 12 games. It was his third home run in
seven games this season at PNC Park, his 29th career there – most
of any opposing player at the 11-year-old stadium and the most for
him at any park not in St. Louis.

But the Cardinals’ bullpen deprived Kyle Lohse of his sixth win
in his past seven decisions and of the opportunity to improve to
8-2 in his career against the Pirates. Lohse allowed three runs on
eight hits and a walk with three strikeouts.

Lincoln entered having allowed seven runs in four starts since
permanently being put into the rotation Aug. 22. He endured his
worst outing of the season, allowing four runs (three earned) on
eight hits and two walks in 5 1-3 innings.

Pujols also had a sacrifice fly in the first, and Andrew
McCutchen and Derrek Lee hit sacrifice flies in the bottom of the
inning.

”It’s a tough one,” Lohse said, ”but we’ve just got to come
back and win the series. That’s all we can do now.”

NOTES: Pittsburgh has had a starter pitch more than six innings
only once in its past 21 games. … St. Louis’ most recent six-game
winning streak in September came in 2008. … The Cardinals are
closing in on agreeing to a $21 million, two-year contract with RHP
Chris Carpenter, who will start Tuesday. He is 12-3 lifetime
against the Pirates but 1-2 in four starts this season. … RHP
Jeff Karstens will start for Pittsburgh, his first outing since
Aug. 28 at St. Louis. He had his past two starts skipped due to
shoulder stiffness.