Six-run ninth stretches Cards' streak to six games


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- St. Louis manager Tony La Russa didn't play for one run in the ninth inning and ended up with six.

Pinch-hitter Eli Marrero hit a tiebreaking single and Tino Martinez added a three-run double in St. Louis' big ninth as the Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-5 Thursday night for their season-high sixth straight win.

Four of the runs were unearned because of third baseman Aramis Ramirez's error leading off the inning that allowed Edgar Renteria reach against Mike Williams (1-4).

Pinch-hitter Kerry Robinson followed with a single. After
fouling off a bunt, Marrero grounded a single past the diving
Ramirez to score the go-ahead run.

``They were defending the bunt aggressively so we decided to try something else,'' La Russa said. ``It worked. I've seen that turn into a triple play, too.''

Marrero said it was the perfect call.

``They had the third baseman charging so even with a good bunt, they probably would have made the play at third base,'' Marrero said. ``Tony made the right call and it worked out good.''

Marrero wasn't even sure he had the green light to swing. He wasn't certain he'd picked up the right sign from third base coach Jose Oquendo.

``I didn't want to ask because I didn't want to give it away,'' Marrero said. ``I figured that was what I saw and I would go with my instincts. He threw a good pitch, a slider that was down. I was able to hit it into the ground and get a good bounce on it.''

Pirates second baseman Pokey Reese fumbled a potential
double-play ball hit by Fernando Vina and a run scored when the
Pirates had to settle for the force at second.

After J.D. Drew walked, Jim Edmonds singled in the third run of
the inning. Martinez followed with a double to center.

``That was a very disappointing loss,'' Pirates manager Lloyd
McClendon said. ``That might be the toughest one of the year.''

The Cardinals extended their lead in the NL Central to four games over Houston by sweeping a four-game series in Pittsburgh for the first time since Aug. 12-15, 1971.

The Pirates have lost six straight, matching their season worst.
They are a season-low 17 games under .500 at 52-69.

St. Louis won despite allowing a season-high 11 walks. The
Pirates tied the game with three runs in the eighth inning.

Steve Kline (1-1) got the win despite allowing the tying run in
the eighth.

``You just let the team down in the eighth inning and you feel
like the lowest man on the totem pole,'' Kline said. ``The guys
came out and got me off the hook.''

Reliever Kevin Joseph walked Adam Hyzdu to open the Pirates
eighth and Reese followed with an RBI double. Kevin Young's single
scored Reese. Jason Kendall drew the Pirates' 10th walk and Jack
Wilson's single loaded the bases.

Brian Giles drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly and an
intentional walk to Ramirez again loaded the bases before Craig
Wilson hit into a double play.

Albert Pujols hit his third home run in four games for the Cardinals. Pujols hit his 29th homer for a 1-0 lead in the second against Kris Benson. The Pirates tied the score in the bottom of the inning but the Cardinals scored four runs off Benson in the sixth.

The rally started with two outs and the bases empty. Jim
Edmonds, Pujols, Scott Rolen and Martinez hit consecutive singles
for the first two runs. After Renteria walked, DiFelice broke a
0-for-9 streak with a double to left-center that made it 5-1.

Luther Hackman walked two batters in the second and gave up a
single to Armando Rios before Reese hit a sacrifice fly.

Ramirez led off the Pirates' sixth with a double, moved up on a fly ball and scored when Rios grounded out.

Game notes
Pujols went from July 21 to Aug. 8 between homers. He has
hit six in the last eight days. ... The Cardinals' last four-game
sweep in Pittsburgh included Bob Gibson's no-hitter. Gibson beat
the Pirates 11-0 on Aug. 14, 1971, at Three Rivers Stadium. ...
Martinez stretched his hitting streak to nine games. ... Rios' hit
ended a 0-for-18 stretch. ... Benson had held the Cardinals to
three earned runs in 10 2/3 innings over two previous starts this
season. ... Reese has a nine-game hitting streak.