By Rick Hummel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch –
PITTSBURGH — Kyle Lohse had to sweat out a 34-minute rain delay and watch a parade of relievers before picking up his 14th win of the season Monday night as the Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 at PNC Park.
Matt Holliday hit a tiebreaking home run and made a key defensive play as the Cardinals moved 14 games above .500 for the first time this season and three games ahead of the Pirates in the race for the second wild-card spot.
After Lohse and A.J. Burnett of Pittsburgh, who had a combined 28-6 record, dueled in scoreless fashion through three innings, the Cardinals put the first runner into scoring position in the fourth. But it was the Pirates who scored first in the inning.
In the top of the inning, Matt Carpenter led off with a walk for the Cardinals. After Holliday flied to deep center, Carpenter reached second as Allen Craig tapped to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who made a strong play coming in.
But Carlos Beltran, two for 16 on the trip and struggling before that, struck out to end the inning. Beltran hasn’t knocked in a run since he had two while playing all 19 innings in a game against Pittsburgh on Aug. 19.
Jose Tabata got the Pirates’ first hit, slapping a grounder past first baseman Craig to start the Pittsburgh fourth. Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen followed with singles, with McCutchen’s hit to center scoring Tabata with the game’s first run.
Garrett Jones lined to center but Alvarez singled to right, with third-base coach Nick Leyva stopping Snider at third.
Snider came in on a sacrifice fly by Josh Harrison, although left fielder Holliday saved further damage by sprinting to his right to make a backhanded catch.
Lohse, an .080 hitter, then tied the score in a two-run Cardinals fifth, with an assist from third-base coach Jose Oquendo and the flying feet of gimpy Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
After Molina opened the inning with a single to right, Skip Schumaker, hitting .500 for his last four games at seven for 14, doubled to left center. When center fielder McCutchen appeared to turn his ankle as he got to the ball and then dropped his arm briefly, assuming that Molina would stop at third, Oquendo kept Molina running and he scored easily.
Schumaker went to third on a Burnett wild pitch as catcher Rod Barajas didn’t shift on a low pitch to his right.
Rafael Furcal’s tapper down the first-base line appeared as if it would go foul and then seemed to kick back fair to first baseman Jones, who was going to make a play on Furcal as Schumaker came home.
But, with home-plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth positioning himself for a possible call at the plate, first-base Adrian Johnson called the ball foul. Furcal then struck out.
Lohse made this a moot point by singling through the middle to score Schumaker, driving in his second run in 51 at-bats.
But, after Jon Jay lined out, Lohse ran out of gas as he was waved home on Carpenter’s double to left center. Lohse was out easily at the plate on McCutchen’s throw to second baseman Harrison, who relayed to Barajas.
Holliday, however, gave the Cardinals their first lead at 3-2 when he lined his 21st home run to the opposite field, right center, to start the sixth. That made Holliday nine for 17 on the trip with five runs batted in for the first four games of the Cardinals’ three-city swing.
The Cardinals added on in the inning with the help of a Pirates throwing error before rain halted play with two out in the sixth.
Craig was credited with an infield hit and shortstop Clint Barmes bounced his throw to first out of play, giving Craig second base.
Beltran’s groundout sent Craig to his third. After Molina fouled off a pitch on suicide squeeze, he lined to right where Snider misjudged the ball but made a leaping catch as Craig scored to make it 4-2.
When play resumed after the rain delay, deposed starter Lance Lynn emerged from the bullpen for the first time this season in the bottom of the sixth. After Jay ran down Andrew McCutchen’s leadoff drive in deep right center, Lynn retired the next two hitters on more conventional fly balls to Jay.
The Cardinals then missed a chance to add their 4-2 lead in the seventh when Jay tripled with one out, extending his hitting streak to eight games, but was stranded as Carpenter tapped out and Holliday fanned.
Lynn departed after Barmes doubled with one out in the seventh to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 4-3. Barmes’ hit scored Harrison, who had reached base on an infield single and gone to second as Furcal’s throw one-hopped past Craig.
Righthander Fernando Salas then stifled the Pirates’ threat and it was 4-3 going to the eighth when the Cardinals misfired again on offense.
After Craig doubled, Beltran, failed to advance him, fouling out. Molina’s fly ball to deep center would have scored Craig. But as it was, he got only to third and pinch hitter David Freese struck out.