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Pirates rally to top Cards

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Ryan Doumit knocked in the tying run and Pedro Ciriaco doubled to right to score Xavier Paul and Ryan Ludwick, giving the Pirates a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth, and the Bucs hung on in the ninth to beat St. Louis 6-5.

You couldn't blame a Pirates fans if, in the bottom of the eighth inning on Monday night, he or she nudged the person next to them and whispered "Pedro who?" as lithe, light-hitting Pedro Ciriaco stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in a 4-4 game.

Ciriaco, yo-yoed between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis six times this season, had seen more action at Pittsburgh International than PNC Park.

"I think there's been a point in time where he's made more flights than he's had at bats," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
 
Ciriaco soared on the field tonight, however, poking a letter-high, 1-2 slider from Cardinals reliever Fernando Salas just inside the first base line and out of the reach of Albert Pujols for a go-ahead, two-run double in an eventual 6-5 victory

"You gotta be prepared for any situation, especially in the National League where there's a lot of changes," Ciriaco said. "You gotta be ready to hit anything. I'm just trying to be more consistent when I'm here, and try to stay here."

"When you put a guy in like that in the double-switch [Ciriaco entered the game in the top of the seventh for Ronny Cedeno] and you look at your lineup, you know there's a chance you might have to stick with him come late," Hurdle said. "Everybody [in the clubhouse] respects him...they watch him work every day, prepare and show up. It was just a really good moment for Pedro and for our club."

The Pirates (67-80)' triumph snapped St. Louis' season-high five game winning streak and dealt a blow to the Cardinals' chances of making a late playoff push. At 79-68, St. Louis sits 4.5 games back of the Braves in the Wild Card race and 6.5 games back of the Brewers in the NL Central with 15 games left to play.

"It definitely gets your attention," Hurdle said of playing a team chasing a playoff spot in September. [The Cardinals] are one of the best clubs in baseball year-in, year-out, so you know you gotta go out there and battle. We were able to stay on them and stay after them. A good baseball game broke out tonight, and I think everybody kind of fed off of that."

St. Louis took a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth inning, as Pujols lofted an inside fastball from Pirates starter Brad Lincoln over the right-center field fence for a two-run shot. But the Pirates roughed up the Cardinals' bullpen in the eight as Hurdle made use of his swelled September bench.

With one out, Derrek Lee drew a walk against Octavio Dotel and was replaced by pinch-runner Chase d'Arnaud. St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa called on lefty Mark Rzepczynski (0-2) to face Ryan Doumit, who lined a middle-plate sinker to right field to even the score at four apiece.

Xavier Paul pinch-ran for Doumit and Ryan Ludwick, pinch-hitting for Garrett Jones, was intentionally walked. Josh Harrison then pinch-hit for Pedro Alvarez but punched out on a slider in the dirt for the second out. Pinch-hitter Jason Jaramillo took four wide sinkers off the dish to load the bases for Ciriaco.

Salas came on for Rzepczynski, and Ciriaco quickly fell behind 0-2 by swinging through a low slider and fouling off another in the same spot. Salas nearly had a fastball sail over catcher Yadier Molina's head on the next pitch. Ciriaco then lunged at a hanging slider to bring home Paul and Ludwick.

"He was looking for a ball up," Hurdle said. "He hit it to the part of the park he needed to hit it to. I don't know if you wanna try to stripe the line, but the ball's up over the plate and he hit it that way."

The Hammer, Joel Hanrahan, caused some heartburn in the top of the ninth. Daniel Descalso led off with a single to right field. Molina chopped a curveball deep in the hole at short that looked destined for left field, but d'Arnaud made a diving stop and fired off a side-armed one-hopper to first base to get an out.

"The good news and bad news with Chase is that there's not a play that he doesn't think he can make," Hurdle said. "I'm not sure how many other guys even try to fire off a throw from that position...that's a highlight film play."

A Skip Schumaker single put runners on the corners and Hanrahan then uncorked a wild pitch on a slider in the dirt that scored Descalso. Nick Punto walked late in the at-bat to put runners on first and second base with one out.

Hanrahan held the lead, however, getting Rafael Furcal to ground out on a slider in on the hands and striking out Corey Patterson swinging on a low breaker to end the game.

Lincoln failed to log six innings for the first time in six starts this season, lasting 5.1 frames while giving up eight hits and four runs. He walked two batters (Pujols intentionally) and recorded just one K -- his mound opponent, Kyle Lohse, looking.

"His north-south was the worst it's been all year in terms of pitching up in the zone tonight," Hurdle said. "That being said, he stayed with his game plan, he battled and he pitched in. He didn't pitch away from contact. He's not the first guy that Pujols has got, and he's not gonna be the last. I just like the edge he takes out there and the way he went after him."

"East and west was good, but I just got the ball up a bit and they were able to get in through the infield or over the infielders' heads," Lincoln said. "I was able to get some double plays there and was able to do some damage control."

Lincoln got Matt Holliday to chop a changeup into the dirt in the third for an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play with the bases loaded. David Freese rolled over on a fastball in the fourth for another DP.

Pittsburgh's 'pen came up big late, with Tony Watson getting Allen Craig to fly out with two down and runners on second and third base in the seventh and Jason Grilli (2-1) retiring Pujols, Holliday and Lance Berkman in order in the eighth.

"Jason went in very professionally and followed his game plan pitching through the heart of the order," Hurdle said.

Grilli, who missed the 2010 season following knee surgery and signed with the Pirates after opting out of his minor league deal with the Phillies in July, has allowed 10 runs in 26.2 innings while striking out 29 batters.

"Jason has been a very good addition because he's pitched well and he's been versatile, Hurdle continued. "We've use him for length, we've used him for matchups and we've used him anywhere from the fifth through the eighth inning. I had him before [Grilli pitched for Hurdle in 2008 when he skippered the Rockies], I know the guy and I know his makeup. He likes to pitch."

While the lineup and pitching machinations worked in Hurdle's favor tonight, he'd like to see September baseball more closely resemble the games played in April through August.

"When you get into September and you've got 38 men, there might be a need for us to explore a 25-man roster day-to-day," Hurdle said. "I made five straight switches in the eighth inning, and you don't have that option [earlier in the season]. They're in a chase. We're playing by the rules, and everybody's done it. In '07 I was [with] a team people were chasing [Colorado reached the World Series under Hurdle] and teams were doing it to us. It is what it is, but I really hope there comes a day where we're playing the same game for six months."

ON DECK
RHP Chris Carpenter (9-9, 3.75 ERA) faces RHP Jeff Karstens (9-8, 3.32 ERA) on Tuesday night. Karstens, who has battled shoulder fatigue while logging a career-high 152 innings pitched this season, is making his first start since August 28. When Karstens takes the mound tomorrow, the Pirates will have five pitchers making at least 25 starts each for the first time since 1997. James McDonald, Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm and Charlie Morton are also part of the 25-plus club. The 1984, 1976 and 1925 Pirates clubs also had five pitchers make at least 25 starts:

25-plus club
1997: Esteban Loaiza, Steve Cooke, Jon Lieber, Jason Schmidt, Francisco Cordova
1984: Rick Rhoden, Larry McWilliams, John Tudor, John Candelaria, Jose DeLeon
1976: John Candelaria, Bruce Kison, Jim Rooker, Jerry Reuss, Doc Medich
1925: Lee Meadows, Emil Yde, Ray Kremer, Vic Aldridge, Johnny Morrison

Pirates starters have a combined 4.03 ERA this season, which is slightly above the 3.96 average for National League starters. The 1984 rotation was by far the most effective of Pittsburgh's 25-plus rotations, posting a 3.13 ERA (3.71 NL average that year). The 1976 (3.40 ERA, 3.51 NL average) and 1925 (3.96 ERA, 4.19 NL average) rotations also bested the league average, while the '97 "Freak Show" starters did not (4.25 ERA, 4.16 NL average).

Carpenter, meanwhile, will keep battling the Bucs through 2013 after agreeing to a two-year, $21 million contract extension with St. Louis this past week.

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