(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Pirates were able to come through with an impressive victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday. Repeating such an effort has been a big problem for the last-place club as of late, however.
The Pirates will try to win back-to-back contests for the first time in nearly a month in tonight's rubber match of a three-game series with the contending Cardinals from PNC Park.
Pittsburgh wasn't fazed by a matchup with National League Cy Young Award candidate Adam Wainwright on Tuesday, as the club scored four times off the All-Star hurler to rally for a 4-3 decision. Neil Walker snapped a 2-2 deadlock with a two-out single that plated two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Walker also delivered an RBI single in the sixth that plated fellow rookie Jose Tabata, who brought the Bucs within 2-1 by tripling off Wainwright with one out in the inning. The two players combined for four of Pittsburgh's seven hits on the night.
"[Wainwright] is one of the best pitchers in the game," Walker remarked." I wanted to keep [the ball] in the middle of the field and I was able to do that."
Joel Hanrahan (3-1) picked up the win by tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Pirates starter Paul Maholm, who held the Cards to two runs over the first 6 2/3 frames. Evan Meek was touched for a run in the ninth, but was able to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam to close out only Pittsburgh's third victory in its last 16 games.
Meek surrendered a one-out RBI single to Jon Jay that brought St. Louis within 4-3, and Albert Pujols followed with an infield hit to fill the bases. The Pittsburgh reliever bore down, however, and retired Matt Holliday on a harmless popup before Felipe Lopez flied out to shortstop to end the game.
Holliday had belted a two-run homer off Maholm in the first inning, while Pujols finished 3-for-5 to raise his season average to .322. The reigning MVP still remains stuck on 399 career home runs, however, after failing to go deep last night.
Wainwright (17-8) failed in his bid to become the majors' first 18-game winner this season after giving up the four runs on seven hits over seven innings of work.
"I didn't make the pitches when I needed to," said Wainwright. "Put [the loss] on me."
Despite the loss, the Cardinals didn't lose any ground to their competition in the NL playoff races. St. Louis remained 2 1/2 games behind first-place Cincinnati in the Central standings after the Reds lost at San Francisco on Tuesday and are just one back of the Giants and Philadelphia for the Wild Card lead.
Pittsburgh hasn't won twice in a row since a pair of road triumphs over Colorado on July 27 and 28. The team will attempt to do so behind an emergency starter tonight, with Daniel McCutchen replacing Jeff Karstens in the rotation after the latter was scratched due to a tired arm.
McCutchen has not fared well in a starting role this year, having gone 1-5 with a poor 8.18 ERA in seven outings. However, the right-hander has performed far better working out of the bullpen as of late, as he's registered a 1.93 ERA in eight appearances in relief.
The 27-year-old's last start took place against the Cardinals on July 31 and resulted in a loss after he was reached for four runs (three earned) over 5 2/3 innings. McCutchen also walked six batters prior to exiting.
St. Louis sends out Jake Westbrook for his fifth appearance since coming over in a July 31 trade with theCleveland Indians. The veteran righty has gone 1-1 with a pair of no-decisions over his first four stars in a Cards uniform and lasted at least six innings on each occasion.
Westbrook's first and only loss as a Cardinal occurred on Friday, when he was reached for three runs in six innings against San Francisco. The 32-year-old defeated the rival Cubs in his previous assignment by permitting only two runs over six effective frames.
The longtime American Leaguer has only pitched four times against the Pirates, and all have come in relief during the earlier stages of his career. Westbrook last faced Pittsburgh during June of the 2003 season.
Tuesday's win was only Pittsburgh's third in its last 15 overall meetings with the Cardinals, who have prevailed in six of eight bouts between the teams this year. St. Louis has gone 9-5 at PNC Park since the start of the 2009 campaign.