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Paul runs Pirates to 10th inning win over Cardinals

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Xavier Paul legged out an infield single, stole second and took third on a throwing error, then scored on a Chase d'Arnaud line-out to center in the bottom of the tenth, and the Pirates rallied to beat St. Louis 4-3, moving into a three-team tie for first in the National League Central.

Xavier Paul watched from third base as Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus glided over and made the catch on a Chase d'Arnaud fly ball. Bottom of the tenth inning. Scored knotted at three apiece. One out, and d'Arnaud's fly was medium-depth. Should he go?

"Right off the bat, I knew I was tagging up," Paul said. "In that situation there, it was do or die... I felt like it was deep enough. I'm going to make [Rasmus] make a perfect throw to get me out."

Rasmus didn't make a perfect throw. Paul slid in safe at home as the ball trailed up the third base line, giving the Pirates a 4-3, extra-inning win on Sunday afternoon in front of 35,402 frenzied fans at PNC Park. With the victory, the Pirates avoided the sweep and pulled even with the Cardinals and Brewers for a three-way tie atop the N.L. Central standings.

Paul, who entered the game to play left field as part of a double-switch in the ninth inning, came to the plate with one out in the tenth against Jason Motte (3-2). Paul bounced a 95 MPH fastball to Albert Pujols at the edge of the infield grass. Pujols lobbed the ball to Motte, but Paul won the foot race to the bag.

Then, with d'Arnaud batting, Paul took off for second base. Gerald Laird's throw skipped in the dirt and got by shortstop Ryan Theriot, allowing Paul to zip into third and later score the winning run.

"That's just playing the game hard," Paul said. "We're always taught to run hard to first base because you never know what can happen. Just a hustle play, and we ended up winning the game."

"That's what we do, and that's what we need to do. Our guys know that," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "When they show up, if they're not in the lineup they may be called up to... throw something in the basket and help us win the game.

"Obviously we've got a different team [than St. Louis]," said Hurdle, whose Pirates have plated 93 runs less than the N.L.-leading Cardinals. "More often than not throughout the season, that's the way we've had to do it. At the end of the day, they continue to take me at my word -- score one more run than the other team. Our bullpen was lights-out again, Charlie gave us a stable outing, and we just kept grinding. It was a very gritty performance by our club today."

Morton battled through a sloppy 5.1 innings, issuing five walks, throwing two wild pitches and making a throwing error. But Jason Grilli, Chris Resop, Joel Hanrahan and Joe Beimel (1-1), who earned his first victory in black and gold since May 2, 2003, combined to hold St. Louis scoreless the rest of the way. The Cardinals committed three errors and left 11 runners on base.

Pittsburgh bested the Cardinals, a team whose clubhouse teems with offensive stars—Pujois, Berkman, Holliday—thanks to Paul, an April waiver claim from the Dodgers, and Eric Fryer, a twice-traded rookie catcher originally from the Brewers' system.

Fryer went 2-for-4 without hitting the ball out of the infield, stole a base and erased two runners with his arm. He had an infield single and scored a run in the third inning, then bunted for a base hit in the seventh. Fryer gunned out Jon Jay on a pitch out in the third, and wiped away the potential winning run in the eighth when he caught Laird off second base after a failed sac bunt attempt by Daniel Descalso.

"I think he continues to show people why he's here," Hurdle said. "He's not the GM's son. There's no scholarship. This was a kid we felt could play and contribute. Every game Fryer has gone back there, he has handled the staff well."

The Cardinals took the lead in the second inning, but Morton ducked and weaved his way out of a potentially disastrous frame with just one run surrendered. Rasmus singled to right field, advanced to third base on a Skip Schumaker line drive over Ronny Cedeno's head and tagged up on a Laird sacrifice fly.

Schumaker scampered to second base when Morton's throw to hold the runner skipped into foul territory, and Descalso then took a 3-2 sinker just below the knees for a walk. A sac bunt by Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse advanced the runners to second and third. Morton got out of the inning, though, when Theriot grounded out to Cedeno.

Pittsburgh knotted the score at 1-1 in the third inning thanks to Fryer's wheels. The 6-foot-2, 215 pound backstop beat out a ground ball that a charging Theriot couldn't corral for an infield single. Morton failed to advance him to second, striking out on a sac bunt attempt. But Fryer took put himself in scoring position, swiping second base and rumbling to third when Theriot couldn't handle a throw to the shortstop side of the bag from Laird. d'Arnaud punched a sinker in on the hands deep to left field for a run-scoring double.
 
Fryer's steal was the first against this season against Lohse, whose 170.2 inning stretch without allowing a runner to nab a bag had been the longest in the major leagues. Jose Tabata was the last successful base thief against Lohse prior to Sunday, taking second on August 23, 2010.
 
Fryer has more speed than most catchers, whose times to first base can be measured with a sun dial. He nabbed 10-plus bases in the minors each season from 2008 to 2010.
 
"It was a delayed steal -- maybe next time I can steal it the right way," Fryer said with a smile. "But it was a good situation to try it. It's always nice when guys come up to you and say, 'Oh, you run really fast and you're the catcher.' I've always taken pride in being able to run a little bit, so it's always nice to chip that in there when you can."
 
St. Louis had another chance to take a commanding lead against Morton in the fifth frame, but Morton avoided a knockout blow by retiring two heavy hitters with a combined 49 home runs this season.
 
Descalso, on first base following his second walk of the day, took off with one out and Theriot at the plate. Theriot hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield that Neil Walker, moving toward second base to cover the bag, couldn't glove. Descalso advanced to third base on Theriot's grounder.
 
With a 2-1 count on Jay, Morton lost his grip on a curveball that bounced in the dirt and away from Fryer, scoring Descalso and moving Theriot to second on the wild pitch. Jay worked a walk to put two runners on base with Pujols and Lance Berkman due up.
 
Morton fell behind Pujols 2-1, and then the man with the most home runs of any visiting player in PNC Park history narrowly missed another by pulling a changeup foul down the left field line. Instead of serving up a three-run shot, Morton got Pujols to foul off a pair of curveballs and then induced an infield pop-up on a chest-high fastball. Berkman grounded out to first on an inside sinker to end the inning.
 
In the bottom half of the fifth, Cedeno hit a line-hugging double to right field off Lohse and advanced to third base on a Fryer ground out. Morton knotted the game at 2-2 by hitting a slider to center field for a sac fly.
 
That tie didn't last long, though, as Rasmus ripped middle-of-the-plate fastball over the Clemente Wall in right field for a solo home run in the sixth. Schumaker singled and advanced to second on a Laird sac bunt. Morton then walked Descalso for a third time and uncorked his second wild pitch of the game, a 3-2 curveball that bounced away from Fryer and allowed Schumaker to pull into third base.
 
Grilli came on in relief and wiggled out of the jam, getting pinch-hitter Tony Cruz to punch out and Theriot to ground out to second.
 
Garrett Jones stepped to the dish in the bottom of the frame with two outs and runners on first and second base against Lance Lynn, who issued ball four to Walker and Lyle Overbay. Lynn peppered the outside corner of the plate with fastballs, and on a 2-2 count, Jones swung through a 95 MPH heater for the third out.
 
In the seventh, however, the Pirates pulled even at 3-3 through another power display from Cedeno and small-ball trickery from Fryer.
 
Cedeno doubled to right field, and Fryer dropped down a bunt. Lynn and third baseman Descalso both froze as the ball rolled in the infield, and the Bucs had runners on first and third before Descalso finally charged it. Pinch-hitter Steve Pearce lined a sharp grounder to third that a diving Descalso snagged, but Cedeno scored on the 5-4-3 double play.
 
Grilli threw 1.2 clean relief innings, and Resop, Hanrahan and Beimel each followed with a scoreless frame to set the stage for Paul in the tenth inning.
 
Hurdle is happy that the Pirates avoided the sweep ahead of a road series against two NL powerhouses that may well determine Pittsburgh's playoff hopes. The club plays four games in Atlanta, including a nationally televised contest on ESPN tomorrow night, and then three games in Philadelphia. But Hurdle knows his team is resilient.
 
"We've got confidence," Hurdle said. "Yeah, we know we needed to win. But if you don't win, what do you do, fold up your tent and don't show up? You gotta keep playing. This was mile marker 99 on a road to 162. "That's what it is for a ball club, that's the way we look at it and that's the way it serves us best" he said, hitting the conference table with his fist. "It was a good win in front of a big crowd today -- no doubt about that"
 
PRESLEY CANDIDATE FOR D.L.
Alex Presley (left thumb contusion) missed his second straight game on Sunday. The rookie outfielder, who turns 26 tomorrow, is hitting .333, getting on base at a .402 clip and slugging .494 while batting out of the leadoff spot for the Pirates this season.

GM Neal Huntington told reporters before the game that Presley would be re-evaluated on Monday or Tuesday, but may be a candidate for the disabled list.

With Presley out, Chase d'Arnaud hit leadoff and Matt Diaz got the start in left field, batting second.
 
ON DECK
The Pirates travel to Atlanta for a nationally televised Monday night matchup with the Braves. RHP James McDonald (6-4, 4.15 ERA) squares off against RHP Tim Hudson (9-6, 3.39 ERA). McDonald hasn't pitched deep into games often this season, averaging less than 5.2 innings per start and having not logged seven or more frames since September 13, 2010. He is coming off one of his more efficient starts, though: McDonald struck out seven, walked three and didn't allow a run in 6.1 innings in a victory over the Reds on July 19.

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