PITTSBURGH -- Xavier Paul was running. No matter what.
The Pittsburgh Pirates' reserve watched the ball off the bat of teammate Chase d'Arnaud slice into the outfield with one out in the 10th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday and decided he was taking off regardless of where the it landed.
"It was extra-inning ballgame," Paul said. "I felt like it was deep enough. I'm going to make him make a perfect throw to get me out."
St. Louis center fielder Colby Rasmus tracked down the ball but his throw to the plate never had a chance. Paul sprinted home with the winning run in a 4-3 victory as the Pirates avoided a three-game sweep.
"I think in that situation right there it's do or die," Paul said. "No way you're going to get the chance to win the game (again). It's just a hustle play and it worked out in our favor."
It's what the Pirates have done all year. Though they lack the firepower of the other three NL Central contenders, they've made up for it by finding enough ways to win to remain in the thick of things well after the Fourth of July.
"Throughout the season that's the way we've had to do it, that's the way we'll continue to plan on doing it," said manager Clint Hurdle.
The sprint home was the third hustle play by Paul in the span of a minute. He reached first by beating out an infield single, then moved to third after stealing second and taking advantage when the throw from St. Louis catcher Gerald Laird rolled into center.
"He goes a hard 90 (feet), beats the play at first and next thing you know he's on third after you try and steal a base," Hurdle said. "That's what we do and that's what we need to do."
Joe Beimel (1-1) retired the Cardinals in order to pick up his first victory as a Pirate in more than eight years as Pittsburgh snapped a three-game losing streak heading into a brutal stretch on the road against NL East leaders Atlanta and Philadelphia.
"We had a chance to win, we just couldn't get it done," said Laird, who committed two errors and was picked off of second base in the eighth. "In close games like that you've got to execute small ball and obviously make plays and we didn't make plays and we gave them opportunities and they capitalized."
Rasmus had two hits, including his 10th homer of the season for the Cardinals, who blew their 19th save of the season to fall into a virtual tie with the Pirates in the standings as their three-game winning streak ended with a thud. Jason Motte (3-2) took the loss in part because he failed to beat Paul to the bag on Paul's infield chopper in the 10th.
"We did some fundamental things right; we also did some fundamental things wrong, so you end up losing a winnable game," said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa. "You don't play perfectly all the time, nobody does."
Pittsburgh rallied for the third time in the seventh to tie it by getting to St. Louis reliever Lance Lynn.
Cedeno led off the inning with a double and moved to third when Lynn and third baseman Daniel Descalso miscommunicated on a bunt attempt by Fryer. Cedeno tied it up on a double play by Steve Pearce and Pittsburgh's bullpen shut the door.
"It took everybody again today and they were lights out," Hurdle said.
They had to be to keep the Pirates close after Pittsburgh's offense struggled against St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse.
The veteran right-hander has struggled this month, entering the game with an 0-3 mark and a 7.64 ERA in July.
The team was so concerned about his performance it ordered the 32-year-old back to St. Louis last week to have the inflammation on the middle finger of his pitching hand examined.
The tests revealed no significant damage and he was effective if not overpowering against Pittsburgh's slumping lineup. Lohse gave up two runs in five innings, striking out four while throwing 45 of his 64 pitches for strikes.
"Little sore, but I felt like I pretty much was able to make the pitches I needed to make, so I'm just doing more treatment and hope it feels better next time," Lohse said.
His numbers would have been even better if not for some uncharacteristically sloppy defense.
The Pirates scratched a run across in the third behind the first career steal by Fryer, who advanced to third when shortstop Ryan Theriot misplayed the throw from Laird.
The steal was the first against Lohse since Pittsburgh's Jose Tabata swiped second against him on Aug. 23, 2010. The sequence was repeated almost exactly in the 10th as the Pirates avoided their longest losing streak since dropping six straight in May.
They have a boost heading into a tough week, while the Cardinals begin a user-friendly portion of the schedule with home series this week against also-rans Houston and Chicago, who began the day a combined 32½ games out of first.
"For the most part, we can build off this series," Laird said. "You always want to win series, and we won this one today. Hopefully we can make a push here because this division is getting tight."
Pittsburgh OF Alex Presley missed his second straight game after sustaining a left thumb contusion on Friday. He is day-to-day. ... The series drew 112,994 fans to PNC Park, the third-highest total for a three-game set in the park's 11-year history. ... St. Louis RF Lance Berkman went 1 for 5 to extend his hitting streak to eight games ... St. Louis pitcher Jake Westbrook served as a pinch runner in the eighth. ... The game was delayed several minutes in the eighth when home plate umpire John Hirschbeck was hit in the groin with a foul ball. Hirschbeck was tended to by trainers but remained in the game.
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