Pirates rally after Mesa blows first save

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates wish they had played

this well against the St. Louis Cardinals back when they were close

enough to see the division leaders in the standings.

Bobby Hill drove in the winning run with a two-out, pinch-hit

single in the ninth inning to lead the Pirates over St. Louis 6-5

Wednesday, completing their first three-game sweep of the Cardinals

at home in nearly 15 years.

Even with the sweep, the Pirates trail St. Louis by 12{ games

and need a Tampa Bay Devil Rays-like turnaround to make something

out of what is fast becoming their 12th consecutive losing season.

"I said it even when (the Pirates recently lost 21 of 24), this

team never gives up," Jack Wilson said. "It's just unfortunate we

didn't do it earlier."

Julian Tavarez replaced starting pitcher Matt Morris to start

the ninth and got the first two hitters, but Jack Wilson and Rob

Mackowiak singled -- each had three hits -- and Hill lined a single

into right field on a 2-1 pitch to score Wilson.

"We tried to pitch around Hill, not give him anything to hit,

but I left a changeup up in the middle of the strike zone and I

paid for that," Tavarez said.

Jose Mesa (2-0) blew his first save opportunity in 18 chances

but got his second victory of the series, while Tavarez (2-2) took

his second loss in three days.

The Cardinals came into the series with a five-game winning

streak, 11 victories in 13 games and a 22-6 record in PNC Park,

only to be held to six runs in 27 innings by a Pirates pitching

staff that has the NL's fourth-worst ERA.

St. Louis hadn't been swept in a three-game series in Pittsburgh

since Sept. 25-27, 1989, though the Pirates did sweep a four-game

series in 1992.

"We got swept by a team we really should beat up on, no offense

to the Pirates," Morris said. "Without a doubt, we should have

beat them."

It was the Cardinals' first loss in 11 series since they dropped

two of three to the Cubs on May 21-23. Since then, they had won

eight series and split two.

"But we're going to be OK, we're going to be fine," Tavarez

said. "We're still in first place. We're still playing well."

The sweep extended the Pirates' season-best winning streak to

five games and came only a month after the Cardinals swept a

four-game series in Pittsburgh. The Pirates went 9-19 in June

compared to the Cardinals' 19-9.

"It's been a tough go for us this month, no doubt about that,

but I'm happy for these guys to be able to do this," manager Lloyd

McClendon said.

Tike Redman had a two-run single in a three-run Pittsburgh first

against Morris, then broke a 3-all tie in the eighth with a two-out

single. Morris, who gave up 10 hits and five runs in eight innings,

began the inning by walking Craig Wilson.

The Cardinals tied it in the ninth against Mesa on a double-play

grounder after loading the bases with none out on Marlon Anderson's

single, Albert Pujols' second double of the game and an intentional


Pirates starter Kip Wells repeatedly pitched out of trouble

while taking a 4-3 lead into the seventh, but Pujols doubled to tie

it. Left-hander John Grabow replaced Wells with runners on second

and third and none out but struck out So Taguchi and John Mabry and

got Reggie Sanders on a hard liner to third. Sanders had homered in

the second.

The Pirates opened a 3-0 lead in the first on Redman's two-run

single and Mackowiak's single. Redman drove in two runs in the

Pirates' 3-0 victory Tuesday night and has five RBI in two games.

Wilson's RBI double in the second gave Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead,

but Wells again gave a run back when Ray Lankford doubled to start

the third and scored on a double play.

"We scored early and that kind of woke them up," Wells said.

"It was probably more intense because they knew we could sweep


Wells allowed eight hits and four runs in six-plus innings and

is winless in seven starts since mid-May.Game notes
Morris has given up 16 first-inning runs in 17 starts. ...

Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds (sore left groin) didn't start for a

fourth consecutive game. ... NL RBI leader Scott Rolen didn't have

an RBI in the series. ... Wells is 0-2 in his last six starts at

home. ... The Cardinals stranded 13 runners in the first two

innings during the series. ... The Pirates' winning streak is their

longest since they won six in a row April 15-21, 2002.