ST. LOUIS (AP) - Just a few more outs, and James McDonald beats the St. Louis Cardinals for the second time in three starts. Safe to say the Pittsburgh Pirates have been happy with the 26-year-old right-hander, who's in his first year in the rotation.
McDonald worked into the seventh inning of a 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night, leaving with a one-run lead. The only damage came on a three-run home run by Yadier Molina in the second inning.
After McDonald's 13th quality start in 26 games, manager Clint Hurdle said the right-hander's form was good.
``He's definitely maintaining velocity,' Hurdle said. ``At the beginning of the game he was at 93 (mph) and threw a couple at 94, and he was still in the 90s throughout. That's always a good sign when the velocity is consistent.'
McDonald gave up three runs on five hits, leaving after Rafael Furcal's single to start the seventh. He beat the Cardinals on Aug. 15, allowing two runs in 5 2-3 innings.
``I felt good. I made one mistake, one pitch, and it was a three-run homer,' McDonald said. ``It was a bad pitch and he made me pay for it. Overall, I was pleased.'
McDonald is 8-6 with a 4.22 ERA. His goal for the rest of the way is not complicated.
``Day in, day out, I want my team to know what they'll get from me,' McDonald said. ``I just want to be a consistent major league pitcher.'
Lance Berkman hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning and the Cardinals overcame a pair of deficits with all the runs coming via the long ball. Matt Holliday walked with one out in the eighth against Jose Veras (2-4) before Berkman hit his 30th homer.
Hurdle gave no thought to getting closer Joel Hanrahan into the game in the eighth given Veras' reliability. The right-hander had allowed one earned run in 12 1-3 innings his previous 13 outings and leads Pittsburgh with 68 appearances.
The homer was the first allowed by Veras since July 31.
``Veras has probably done as much as any eighth-inning setup guy this year as far as pitching through the meat of the order and getting the ball to the closer,' Hurdle said. ``It was down, but it was working back towards the barrel and into his swing path.'
Andrew McCutchen had three hits and an RBI for the Pirates, who have dropped seven of 10 and are in a 10-27 tailspin since July 19 when they were seven games above .500.
Berkman reached 30 homers for the sixth time in his career, leaving him one behind teammate Albert Pujols for the NL lead, coming off a career-worst 14 homers in an injury-plagued 2010. The Cardinals' 3-4-5 hitters had been 0-for-8 with three walks before the homer.
Kyle McClellan (10-6) struck out two in two perfect innings as the Cardinals overcame a shaky start from Jake Westbrook, who gave up three runs in the first and matched his season high with five walks.
The first four Pirates reached safely in the first, with McCutcheon and Ryan Doumit getting an RBI apiece, and Josh Harrison added a sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.
``A big hit would have blown it open, there's no doubt,' Hurdle said. ``We've been shaking the pom-poms for that throughout the season - one more hit in the big time with runners in scoring position.
``For us to get three that was a good sign. We were looking for one more hit and we didn't get it.'
Notes: Fans lined up at least four hours before game-time to get the McGee bobbleheads. ``That's the kind of tribute he deserves,' manager Tony La Russa said. ... Pujols had three walks Wednesday night, two of them intentional and scored three runs. The Cardinals are 60-1 when Pujols scores three times. ... Chris Carpenter (8-8, 3.57) is 12-2 with a 2.33 ERA against the Pirates heading into Saturday's start against Brad Lincoln (0-0, 4.58). ... McCutcheon's 33rd multihit game followed a 1-for-13 slump. ... Garrett Jones was walked intentionally for only the second time this season in the fifth.
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