The Cardinals on Monday guaranteed themselves that they will leave Pittsburgh ahead of the Pirates with a rain-soaked 4-3 lead.
A rain delay after five innings of play prevented the most consistent St. Louis starter, Kyle Lohse, from making it past five innings. But the bullpen was nearly perfect, allowing only a single unearned run that was able to reach second base on a Rafael Furcal error.
Lohse was no-hitting the Pirates through three innings when suddenly the Bucs strung together three consecutive safeties and four hits in five at bats to take a 2-0 lead. But the Birds stormed back with a Yadi Molina single in the top of the sixth and a Skip Schumaker double that plated the limping Molina all the way from first base.
After Rafael struck out, Lohse helped his own cause with a single up the middle to tie the game at two runs. The Cardinals tried to score a third run in the inning by sending Lohse all the way from first on a Matt Carpenter double. Lohse seemed as if he was content to stop at third with Matt Holliday coming to the plate. But he followed Jose Oquendo's green light and was nailed at the plate by several feet.
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In the top of the sixth, when Holliday finally got his chance, he hit a homer to give the cardinals a 3-2 lead. Molina later hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-2 where it stood through the rain delay.
When the teams came back the Pirates got a run when Furcal ranged up the middle to field a grounder and then skipped the throw about 15 rows deep into the first base stands.
But Lance Lynn, Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski bridged the gap to closer Jason Motte who recorded a four-out save to put St. Louis three games ahead of the Pirates in the wildcard race and 14 games over .500.
Lohse improved to 14-2 with a strong five innings. He struck out three and walked none.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Matt Holliday was 2-for-4 with a homer and had the game-winning hit.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Molina's effort to score from first on a bad ankle is the stuff that championship seasons are made of. A lot of people like to gripe when he doesn't run out grounders at full speed. This more than makes up for it in my book.
Lowlight: Carlos Beltran looked absolutely awful with a strikeout and a foul pop-up to the catcher. He seems like he has a back or lower body injury that is making him swing with his arms.
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