PITTSBURGH (AP) - The St. Louis Cardinals have mashed their way back into the NL Central race behind their might.
They lost a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday with their miscues.
Pittsburgh's Xavier Paul took advantage of his speed and some sloppy play by the Cardinals to earn a 4-3 win in 10 innings and prevent St. Louis from completing a three-game sweep.
Paul beat out an infield hit, stole second and moved to third on an error from St. Louis catcher Gerald Laird before scampering home on Chase d'Arnaud's sacrifice fly.
``We had a chance to win, we just couldn't get it done,' said Laird, who committed two errors and was picked off of second base in the eighth. ``In close games like that you've got to execute small ball and obviously make plays and we didn't make plays and we gave them opportunities and they capitalized.'
The loss ended the Cardinals' three-game winning streak and prevented them from moving into first-place in the NL Central after the Milwaukee Brewers lost at San Francisco.
``We did some fundamental things right; we also did some fundamental things wrong, so you end up losing a winnable game,' said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa. ``You don't play perfectly all the time, nobody does.'
Colby Rasmus had two hits, including his 10th home run of the season, for the Cardinals. Jon Jay and Skip Schumaker also had two hits for St. Louis, but the Pirates rallied from one-run deficits three times.
``It was one of those things where we had the lead and they just kept crawling back and finding holes out there,' Laird said.
Jason Motte (3-2) took the loss in part because he couldn't beat Paul to the bag on Paul's chopper to first base with one out in the 10th. Albert Pujols fielded it cleanly but Paul sprinted down the line to get there first.
``I got over there, I just didn't get my foot on the bag,' Motte said. ``I got over there and was trying to find it. I just didn't get there in time.'
Paul broke for second on the first pitch to d'Arnaud and scooted to third when Laird's throw trickled into center. When d'Arnaud hit a ball to center, Paul decided it was time to win the game.
``It was extra inning ballgame,' Paul said. ``I felt like it was deep enough. I'm going to make him make a perfect throw to get me out.'
Rasmus' throw was up the line, giving Pittsburgh reliever Joe Beimel (1-1) his first victory with the Pirates since 2003.
Though St. Louis touched up starter Charlie Morton for three runs in 5 1-3 innings, the Cardinals were shut down by the Pirates' bullpen, never getting to third over the final 4 2-3 innings.
``They were phenomenal,' Morton said of the relievers.
Still, the Cardinals were pleased with taking two of three and were happy with the performance of starter Kyle Lohse.
The veteran right-hander has struggled this month, entering the game with an 0-3 mark and a 7.64 ERA in July.
The team was so concerned about his performance it ordered the 32-year-old back to St. Louis last week to have the inflammation on the middle finger of his right (pitching) hand examined.
The tests revealed no significant damage and he was effective if not overpowering against Pittsburgh's slumping lineup. Lohse gave up two runs in five innings, striking out four while throwing 45 of his 64 pitches for strikes.
``Little sore, but I felt like I pretty much was able to make the pitches I needed to make, so I'm just doing more treatment and hope it feels better next time,' Lohse said.
The Cardinals went 4-5 on their final nine-game road trip of the season begin a user-friendly portion of the schedule with home series this week against also-rans Houston and Chicago, who began the day a combined 32.5 games out of first.
``For the most part, we can build off this series,' Laird said. ``You always want to win series, and we won this one today. Hopefully we can make a push here because this division is getting tight.'
NOTES: Pittsburgh OF Alex Presley missed his second straight game after sustaining a left thumb contusion on Friday. He is day-to-day. ... The series drew 112,994 fans to PNC Park, the third-highest total for a three-game set in the park's 11-year history. ... St. Louis RF Lance Berkman went 1 for 5 to extend his hitting streak to eight games ... St. Louis pitcher Jake Westbrook served as a pinch runner in the eighth. ... The game was delayed several minutes in the eighth when home plate umpire John Hirschbeck was hit in the groin with a foul ball. Hirschbeck was tended to by trainers but remained in the game.
The Associated Press News Service
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