Another day, another walk-off 2-1 Cardinals win with a Matt at the plate

ST. LOUIS — Long before Saturday’s game began, Cardinals fans lined up in droves at Busch Stadium for a chance to get their own replica Matt Carpenter batting practice jersey.

Consecutive singles in the bottom of the 11th by Pete Kozma, a defensive substitution at second base in the top of the inning, and right fielder Jon Jay brought Carpenter to the plate with one out and runners on first and third against right-hander Jared Hughes, one of the Pirates’ best groundball pitchers. Pittsburgh held a conference on the mound to discuss how to proceed.

Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano carried a no-hitter through five innings, then allowed a leadoff single to Peter Bourjos, making his third start in center field. Regular right fielder Jason Heyward delivered a pinch-hit single to move Bourjos to third, and Bourjos’ blazing speed allowed him to score easily on Jay’s sharp grounder to first base.

That offense proved to be enough thanks to some tough pitching by a Cardinals staff that lowered its MLB-best ERA to a remarkable 2.28, more than half a run better than the second-place Pirates. Starter John Lackey and five relievers stranded 18 baserunners to keep St. Louis’ clutch offense within striking distance.

"I think I gave up a few hits, but they were all singles and was able to manage some innings, pitch around a couple guys in some spots to kind of get some favorable matchups," said Lackey, who left a runner on third base in three of his six innings. "I felt really good for the most part."

The Pirates finished the day 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

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