PITTSBURGH (AP) — Nick Punto hit a go-ahead double in the ninth inning and the surging St. Louis Cardinals overcame three errors by first baseman Albert Pujols to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4 Tuesday night.
Trying to stay in the wild card and NL Central races, the Cardinals won for the sixth time in seven games.
The loss dropped the Pirates to 67-81. In a season that once had so much hope, they are stuck with a non-winning season for the 19th straight year.
Working on the day he signed a $21 million, two-year contract, Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter hit an early two-run single. He took a 4-2 lead into the seventh, but Andrew McCutchen tied it with a two-out homer.
Punto delivered on a hit-and-run play, driving in pinch-runner Tyler Greene. Pujols provided some insurance with a sacrifice fly.
The Pirates put runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth, but Pedro Ciriaco bunted into a forceout and Neil Walker grounded into a double play to end it.
Kyle McClellan (11-6) earned the win in relief while Jason Motte worked the ninth for his sixth save.
Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan (0-4) took the loss.
Carpenter, now signed to stay with St. Louis through 2013, allowed 10 hits, walked one and struck out six. The 36-year-old right-hander appeared well on his way to his 10th victory of the season until McCutchen hit his 23rd homer, snapping out of a 1-for-15 slump.
Daniel Descalso singled with one out in the St. Louis ninth for his third hit of the night and Greene pinch ran. Punto followed with a drive to left-center to put the Cardinals ahead. With the bases loaded, Pujols atoned for his defensive miscues with a sacrifice fly to right.
Pittsburgh, which rallied for a dramatic 6-5 win on Monday, again proved to be a tough out but had trouble on the bases.
The Pirates lost an apparent run in the fifth after Ciriaco tagged up on a fly by Lee. Carpenter threw the ball to third and Ciriaco was called out on appeal for leaving too early.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle came out to argue before heading back to the dugout, then took up the cause a half-inning later and was promptly ejected for the fifth time this season.
Lee singled and scored on Pujols’ error in the second and hit a solo home run in the third.
Pujols, a two-time Gold Glove winner, has 14 errors this season.
NOTES: The Cardinals activated right-handed reliever Eduardo Sanchez from the 60-day DL. He hasn’t pitched since June because of a strained shoulder. … The series concludes on Wednesday, with Edwin Jackson (4-2, 3.39 ERA) starting for the Cardinals while Charlie Morton (9-9, 3.81 ERA) gets the nod for Pittsburgh. … Morton has struggled against the Cardinals, going just 2-4 with a 6.69 ERA against them in seven career starts. … Jackson can move to .500 on his career with a victory. The 27-year-old is 59-60.
Copyright Associated Press