Simon delivers in ninth for Pirates in win

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- In a ninth inning filled with managerial

maneuverings, the Pirates' Lloyd McClendon's unorthodox strategy

got the better of an uncommon move by the Cardinals' Tony La Russa.

Randall Simon's pinch-hit single with the bases loaded in the

ninth gave the Pirates a 6-5 victory over St. Louis on Wednesday

night, preventing the Cardinals from gaining a first-place tie with

Houston in the NL Central.

St. Louis lost for the first time in five games despite Albert

Pujols' second three-run homer in as many games. His 27-game

hitting streak is the longest in the majors this season.

In the bottom of the ninth, reliever Pedro Borbon (0-1) got the

first two hitters before Jason Kendall doubled into the gap in

left-center. La Russa then ordered Brian Giles and Reggie Sanders

intentionally walked, moving Kendall to third.

Simon hit an opposite-field single into left field on an 0-2

pitch to win it, with ball eluding a diving Edgar Renteria in the

hole at shortstop.

"I thought it had a chance to get through because they were

playing me to pull the ball," Simon said. "But with two strikes,

I've got to put the ball in play. I'm just glad it worked out for


McClendon had switch-hitter Abraham Nunez on his bench, but

instead went with the left-handed hitting Simon against the

left-handed Borbon. So much for managing by the book.

"What book? I never read that book. It's a good thing I didn't,

huh?" McClendon said.

Earlier in the inning, McClendon pulled Craig Wilson, who had

homered twice, for defensive replacement Carlos Rivera. Simon

subsequently pinch-hit for Rivera.

"That move, in the long run, worked out OK," Wilson said.

La Russa's decision to put the potential winning run only 90

feet from the plate didn't, but he wasn't about to apologize for

intentionally walking Giles and Sanders.

"It's tough to take a loss, but I couldn't take one of their

big guys beating us," La Russa said. "He (McClendon) made a good

move with Simon because he's a guy who will put the ball in play."

The Cardinals trailed 2-0, only to go ahead 4-2 with a four-run

sixth keyed by Pujols' 33rd homer and fourth in as many games.

Consecutive homers by Wilson and Sanders to start the eighth

briefly put the Pirates up 5-4, but Edgar Renteria's RBI single in

the ninth tied it at 5 against reliever Julian Tavarez.

The Pirates have been using right-hander Mike Lincoln as their

closer, but McClendon, in yet another against-the-book move, stayed

with Tavarez (2-3) in the ninth even though he had already pitched

two innings.

Pittsburgh trailed 4-3 entering the eighth, but Sanders hit his

25th homer and Wilson his eighth and second of the game in a span

of three pitches by Cal Eldred. Eldred came on after reliever Steve

Kline retired all four batters he faced.

In the Cardinals' big sixth, Pujols' homer followed Miguel

Cairo's RBI double and Eduardo Perez's single. Pirates starter

Brian Meadows took a three-hit shutout into the inning, only to

leave after allowing five consecutive hits, starting with

pinch-hitter Kerry Robinson's single.

Pujols' fly ball initially looked like it might not clear the

wall on a muggy, 82-degree night, but just as right fielder Sanders

appeared to settle under the ball, it carried several rows into the


Pujols' hitting streak is the Cardinals' longest since Ken

Boyer's 29-game streak in 1959. Earlier this season, Kenny Lofton,

then of the Pirates, and Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox had

26-game streaks.

Pujols probably wishes the Cardinals were making a return trip

to Pittsburgh this season. Not only is he hitting .456 against the

Pirates this season, he has 11 homers and 32 RBI in 23 career

games in PNC Park.

So far, Pujols has hit an important homer in every Cardinals

game this week. His eighth-inning shot Sunday night off the Braves'

John Smoltz gave the Cardinals a 3-2 victory, and he followed that

with first-inning shots Monday and Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the second against Jeff Fassero

on Wilson's first homer of the game. Giles had a run-scoring double

in the fifth, and Jeff Reboulet's third straight hit, a double,

scored a run in the sixth against Cardinals reliever Esteban Yan.

^Notes:@ Second base umpire Chris Guccione left the game because of

dehydration in the third inning. ... Reboulet went 3-for-4 after

ending an 0-for-20 slump with a pinch-hit single the previous

night. ... Wilson also had a two-homer game against the Giants on

Aug. 4, 2002. ... The Pirates must go 27-17 in their final 44 games

to avoid an 11th consecutive losing season.