The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates continue heading in opposite directions.
The Cardinals look to add to the Pirates' frustrations Tuesday night when the clubs continue their three-game series in Pittsburgh.
After losing three of four at home to Pittsburgh earlier this month, St. Louis quickly rebounded and has now won six of seven, including a 4-3 victory in Monday's series opener.
Holliday also had four hits in Sunday's victory over Cincinnati, and is batting .452 (14 for 31) with six extra-base hits and nine RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.
With Monday's win, the Cardinals (71-57) moved 2 1/2 games in front of Los Angeles and three ahead of the Pirates for the second NL wild card."We've felt for a long time that we've been due to play like we've been playing the last week or so," Lohse said. "We're playing really well now and it's the perfect time because we're coming down the homestretch. It's the right time of the year to win games like this."
St. Louis, which is averaging 6.6 runs and hitting .357 over the last seven games, expects to have third baseman David Freese (wrist) back in the starting lineup Tuesday. He sat out Saturday and Sunday's games and struck out in a pinch-hitting appearance Monday.
Freese has struggled against the Pirates this season, hitting .188 with 11 strikeouts in 13 games.
While the Cardinals are surging, the Pirates (68-60) are struggling to get back on track. They have lost six of seven since their series in St. Louis and 13 of 18 going back to Aug. 9.
Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker was a late scratch Monday because of lower back stiffness, and his status for Tuesday is uncertain. He's hitting .333 in 10 games against the Cardinals this year, but is just 4 for his last 35 (.114) overall.
On Tuesday, the Pirates will face St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook (13-9, 3.67 ERA), who is 6-1 with a 3.30 ERA in his last seven starts overall, but has struggled against Pittsburgh.
Westbrook's lone recent loss came against the Pirates on Aug. 17, although he deserved a better fate, giving up two runs - one earned - in 7 2-3 innings of a 2-1 defeat.
While the right-hander wasn't as sharp Thursday, allowing five runs in five innings against Houston, he got credit for a 13-5 win.
Westbrook is 1-3 with a 3.71 ERA against Pittsburgh this year, and 1-6 lifetime versus the Pirates.
James McDonald (11-6, 3.73), who bested Westbrook earlier this month by striking out seven and limiting St. Louis to two hits in six scoreless innings, will try to do so again Tuesday.
The right-hander had a rough outing against San Diego on Wednesday, getting charged with four runs, five hits and five walks in five innings of a 4-2 loss.
Even including the strong performance against St. Louis, McDonald has a 7.29 ERA in his last eight starts. However, he's 2-1 with a 2.54 ERA in five career outings versus the Cardinals.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 25, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left wrist contusion|
|August 25, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Sprained ankle|
|August 21, 2012||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right hand injury|
|August 16, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|August 08, 2012||Allen Craig||Day-to-Day||Sore ribs|
|August 03, 2012||Lance Berkman||15-Day DL||Right knee inflammation|
|August 27, 2012||Neil Walker||Day-to-Day||Lower back stiffness|
|August 25, 2012||Jose Tabata||Day-to-Day||Left game - left groin discomfort|
|August 25, 2012||Chad Qualls||15-Day DL||Left toe sprain|
|August 19, 2012||Starling Marte||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|August 15, 2012||Neil Walker||Day-to-Day||Dislocated finger|
|August 14, 2012||Travis Snider||Day-to-Day||Left game - Aggravated right hamstring|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Josh Harrison provided the pop. Pedro Alvarez provided the power. The reeling Pittsburgh Pirates eagerly accepted both.
Alvarez homered twice and drove in four runs after Harrison barreled into St. Louis catcher Jadier Molina and the Pirates rolled to a 9-0 victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday night.
While Alvarez crushed his 24th and 25th home runs of the season, it was Harrison's violent collision at home plate with Molina in the second inning that sent the message the struggling Pirates aren't quite finished just yet.
Harrison broke from second on Jose Tabata 's single to right with two outs and dashed for the plate. By the time he got there, Molina had the ball in his hands. The second baseman lowered his left shoulder and plowed into the catcher's head. Molina somehow held onto the ball to end the inning
It also ended his night.
Molina got up slowly and went to the clubhouse with neck, back and shoulder injuries and was replaced by Tony Cruz . Watching Molina walk off the field was difficult, but Harrison insisted he had no choice.
"There was no way to slide around him," Harrison said. "I felt my only way was to go through him."
Molina, who complained of a headache afterward, doesn't believe the hit was malicious.
"I never saw the guy coming," Molina said. "I was concentrating on catching the ball. I never saw him coming, but the real pain was in my head. I don't know if he was (targeting) my head or not."
The play seemed to energize the Pirates, who snapped out of a weeklong funk and drew within two games of St. Louis for the NL's second wild-card spot.
"It can spark a team," manager Clint Hurdle said. "But it will be up to us to play better baseball than we've played lately and play along the lines that we did tonight."
Having the streaky Alvarez heating up once again certainly helped. The third baseman hit a two-run homer in the third to give the Pirates a comfortable lead, added an RBI double in the fourth then hit a 469-foot blast to center in the sixth.
"The second one, the ball looked like it was going to hit the (Clemente) Bridge," Hurdle said. "That's 400 and I don't know how many. That's a whole bunch of feet. It goes to show you he can shrink a ballpark."
It was more than enough offense for James McDonald (12-6), who gave up two hits in seven efficient innings, walking one and striking out six to beat the Cardinals and Jake Westbrook (13-10) for the second time in the last two weeks.
Using his curveball to keep the surging Cardinals off balance, McDonald looked like the pitcher that was one of baseball's biggest surprises during the first half of the year, not the one that has stumbled at times over the last six weeks.
"I think it's just part of the growing process," catcher Mike McKenry said. "He's just starting to come into his own. He had a tremendous first half and every pitcher struggles at some point and he just happened to struggle at the wrong time. He just enhanced it and we just had to take the world off his shoulders."
McDonald had little trouble against the Cardinals' surging lineup, surrendering only a two-out single to Molina in the second and a two-out double to Jon Jay in the sixth. Other than that he was flawless, allowing Pittsburgh's weary bullpen to get a needed break.
Playing with a cushion for once didn't hurt. The Pirates came in losers in six of their last seven since a dramatic 19-inning victory in St. Louis on Aug. 19, forced to play catch-up most nights while the starting pitching faltered.
This time, the Pirates jumped out early.
Garrett Jones hit a sacrifice fly to give Pittsburgh the lead and the Pirates continued to build. Alvarez hit a two-run shot to the notch in left-center to make it 3-0 in the third and got things started in the fifth with an RBI double to score Andrew McCutchen .
McKenry added a run-scoring single to make it 5-0. Westbrook exacted a little payback by drilling Harrison in the leg with a fastball, drawing a warning to both dugouts from home plate umpire Adrian Johnson.
Harrison took no offense at pitch, calling it "a part of the game." He didn't stay at first for long anyway. Clint Barmes followed the plunking with a two-run single the Pirates were up 7-0.
That was more than enough for McDonald. The Cardinals failed to get a runner to third while McDonald was in the game while getting shut out for the second time this month and the seventh time this season.
Westbrook has been a key part of the Cardinals' rise during the second half, winning six of his previous seven decisions. He could do little right on a night the Pirates snapped out of their swoon in a big way.
The veteran right-hander gave up seven runs and 11 hits in five innings, tying a season high with four walks while striking out two. He threw just 61 of his 103 pitches for strikes.
"I haven't been very good the last couple outings and I can't ask the offense to pick me up that big like they did last start," Westbrook said. "It's just a matter of figuring it out."
NOTES: The series wraps up Wednesday in the final meeting between the clubs this season. Joe Kelly (4-5, 3.26 ERA) starts for the Cardinals against Pittsburgh's Wandy Rodriguez (8-13, 4.01) ... The Pirates released pitcher Erik Bedard on Tuesday morning. Hurdle hasn't announced a replacement in the rotation yet and hinted A.J. Burnett could start in Bedard's spot on Saturday in Milwaukee.