It looked like the Cardinals on Thursday were going to follow their familiar pattern of blowing a game with one bad inning.
But somehow they survived a disaster of a third inning to beat the Pirates 8-3. Albert Pujols had an RBI double in the first and Lance Berkman singled Pujols home to make the score 2-0.
In the second Rafael Furcal was plated by Skip Schumaker to give the Birds a 3-0 lead.
But it all turned upside-down when the Pirates eighth place hitter Michael McKenry hit a grounder to to third baseman David Freese to start the third inning and Freese booted the ball. Pittsburgh's starter Charlie Morton bunted McKenry over to third and Jose Tabata struck out for the second out. But then the wheels fell off for St. Louis starter Edwin Jackson. He allowed a single to make the game 3-1 followed by a pair of walks and another hit to tie the game at three before finally recording the last out.
Back to back doubles in the fourth gave the Pirates the lead and Cardinals fans a sinking feeling.
But in the fifth Allen Craig led off with a single and stole second. Pujols walked and Freese was redeemed when his inside out single to right drove in a pair to put the Birds up 5-4.
In the bottom of the eighth Jon Jay led off with a double and Ryan Theriot sacrificed him to third. Pinch hitter Gerald Laird struck out and Pujols was intentionally walked. But Matt Holliday made the Bucs pay the price with a three-run homer that put the game out of reach. Cardinals Star of the Game: Holliday. Cardinals Play of the Game: Reliever Jason Motte's strikeout with a runner at theirs and one out in the eighth. Lowlight: Jackson's shaky third inning.