Bucs stun Cards after rookie closer blows save
Jack Wilson waited until the Pittsburgh Pirates were down to their last strike before coming through.
Wilson's three-run double on an 0-2 fastball capped a four-run ninth inning off hard-throwing Jason Motte, leading Pittsburgh to an opening 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
"That first one, he blew by me pretty easily," Wilson said. "Then I kind of stayed back and it felt pretty good. Just try to get it out there, put it in play, and then you have a chance."
In a game played in 41-degree chill, Ryan Ludwick broke a 2-2 tie with a leadoff homer in the eighth off Tyler Yates, and David Freese added a sacrifice fly off John Grabow (1-0) for a 4-2 lead.
Freddy Sanchez led off the ninth with a double off Motte, who won a three-way battle for the closer's job in spring training. Adam LaRoche singled in a run with two outs, pinch-hitter Eric Hinske doubled LaRoche to third and Brandon Moss was hit by a pitch before Wilson's drive to left-center.
Motte, a former catcher who moved to the mound in 2006, had a 1.46 ERA and five saves in spring training after debuting last season with an 0.82 ERA in 11 games with the Cardinals.
His fastball has been timed in the high 90s but when Motte got behind in the count, it wasn't nearly as effective. He refused to blame the weather or nerves from playing in front of a sellout crowd of 45,832.
"It's just one of those things," Motte said. "You go out there and have a bad outing, you can come back out there tomorrow and be the hero. You've just got to put it all behind you."
St. Louis didn't warm up anyone until after Wilson's hit.
Wilson had been 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a popup. He batted .170 in spring training with a homer and three RBIs in 21 games.
"He's got a new approach up there and I don't think he felt that comfortable in spring training," manager John Russell said. "Hopefully, this will help him to relax."
Matt Capps pitched the ninth for the save, sealing the third straight opening-day win for the Pirates, who have finished last in the NL Central in three of the last four seasons. Nyjer Morgan had three hits and two RBIs as the Pirates overcame three errors.
Albert Pujols was 3-for-4 with an intentional walk for the Cardinals. He is batting .419 hitter (13-for-31) with two homers, four doubles and 10 RBIs in nine openers.
Adam Wainwright made his first official opening day start, a year after he pitched in an opener that was wiped out by rain after three innings. He allowed two runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings, and he combined to strike out (seven) or walk (five) nearly half his 25 batters. While the strikeouts were one shy of his career best, he matched his high for walks, set in his final start last season. He even walked Pirates starter Paul Maholm on four pitches.
After Pittsburgh stranded five runners in the first two innings, St. Louis went ahead in the third on run-scoring singles by Khalil Greene and Ludwick following the first of LaRoche's two errors at third.
Wainwright walked his last two hitters, and Morgan hit a two-run single off Trever Miller. Maholm, a career .139 hitter coming in, walked against Josh Kinney in the sixth.
"It's not what I wanted, that's for sure," Wainwright said. "I wanted to carry my team deeper into the game, and I didn't."
Maholm had a team-high nine wins last year, the lowest total for a Pirates staff leader since 1981, and moved one slot ahead of '08 opening day starter Ian Snell and two slots ahead of Zach Duke ('07) in the rotation.
Cardinals Hall of Famers Stan Musial, 88, and Red Schoendienst, 86, tag-teamed the first pitch. Musial rode a cart to the mound and flipped the ball to Schoendienst, who walked halfway to the plate and made an underhand throw. ... There was a moment of silence before the game for longtime instructors George Kissell and Dave Ricketts, and former scouting director Fred McAlister, all of whom died in the past year. ... The Pirates opened on the road for the fourth straight season. ... Greene entered with 15 career at-bats as the cleanup hitter, all in 2007 with the Padres. He batted .408 with 17 RBIs in spring training.