PITTSBURGH (AP) - Yadier Molina normally would have been given off a day game following a night game.
But with the Cardinals trying to gain in the NL Central and wild card, Molina was back behind the plate Wednesday and his tiebreaking, two-run double led St. Louis over the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2.
``I feel good, man. I feel healthy,' Molina said. ``When you're in the pennant race, you don't feel tired.'
St. Louis, which has 13 games left, has won seven of eight and remained 4 1-2 games behind Atlanta in the NL wild-card race. The Cardinals began the day 6 1-2 games back of Milwaukee in the NL Central.
A three-time Gold Glove winner, Molina is having the best offensive season of his eight-year career: .295 with 12 home runs and 60 RBIs. The homers are a career high and he is two RBIs from matching his best.
``It's about winning right now,' Molina said. ``I don't care about numbers. We're winning and that's the important thing.'
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa made it a point to give Molina regular rest this season after he played in 140 games in 2009 and 136 last year.
Edwin Jackson (5-2) allowed two runs and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings.
``Anytime you can get a quality start and the team wins, it's a good day,' Jackson said. ``It's a game we really needed. We can't afford to lose a series.'
He improved to 4-0 in his career against Pittsburgh.
``He doesn't get bothered when guys get on base,' La Russa said. ``He just comes back and makes tough pitches.'
Three relievers combined to hold Pittsburgh scoreless over the final 2 1-3 innings. Jason Motte pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save in 10 chances.
The Pirates clinched their 19th consecutive losing season, extending a record for a major league franchise in North America.
A year after going a big league-worst 57-105, the Pirates were 51-44 and led the NL Central by a half-game before play on July 20. But they have gone 16-38 since, and at 67-82 are ensured of another sub.-500 record.
La Russa thinks Pittsburgh is getting better.
``They compete,' he said. ``Clint and his coaching staff have done a really good job of getting their players to play hard for nine innings. They've played us tough and everybody else, too.'
With the score 1-1 in the fourth, Molina doubled, a drive off the out-of-town scoreboard in right field off Charlie Morton (9-10).
``I was just looking to drive in a run in that situation,' Molina said. ``He likes to pitch me on the outside part of the plate and I got a pitch up and away that I could drive.'
Derrek Lee, who had three hits, pulled the Pirates within a run when he hit an RBI double in the sixth.
Rafael Furcal hit a double on the game's first pitch and scored on Allen Craig's two-out double.
Pittsburgh tied it in the third when Michael McKenry led off with a double and Alex Presley drove him home with one out with the first of his two doubles.
NOTES: Cardinals LF Matt Holliday missed the game as he returned to St. Louis to be examined after spraining his right hand Tuesday night while taking practice swings in the on deck circle in the ninth inning. Furcal, the Cardinals' shortstop, left in the fifth inning with a strained right knee sustained when he was thrown out trying to steal second base. The Cardinals were still awaiting news on Holliday after the game while Furcal said he should not miss any games. ... Cardinals INF Daniel Descalso started at third base in place of David Freese for a second straight game but La Russa said the slumping Freese will return to the lineup Friday night for the start of a four-game series at Philadelphia. La Russa played Descalso on Wednesday because left-handed batters were hitting .370 against Morton coming in. ... St. Louis is off Thursday before facing the NL East-leading Phillies. LHP Jaime Garcia (12-7, 3.68) will start the series opener for the Cardinals against RHP Vance Worley (11-2, 2.92). Garcia is 6-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 13 career starts against NL East teams.
The Associated Press News Service
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