Lofton extends hitting streak to 23 games in win


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon was so
unhappy, he called a postgame meeting -- and his team won. Down the
hall, Steve Kline was answering questions about yet another
Cardinals' bullpen blowup, and wasn't happy doing it.

In a game both teams tried giving away, the Cardinals finally
succeeded. Aramis Ramirez drove in three runs and St. Louis'
usually flawless defense committed a costly error that led to a
four-run Pirates' sixth inning and an 8-7 Pittsburgh comeback
victory Sunday.

Kenny Lofton's double drove in what proved to be the decisive
run in the seventh, running his hitting streak to 23 games. It is
the Pirates' longest streak since Al Oliver's 23-game run in 1974.

Still, McClendon was so unhappy the Pirates nearly gave another
game away in the ninth inning, he let his team know about it for 15
minutes afterward.

"The fact of the matter is we didn't play great baseball,''
McClendon said. "My job as a manager is to analyze things, and
there a lot of things that were bad about this game, and I told
them about it.''

Kline keeps hearing about the Cardinals' bullpen problems -- they
have blown 13 of 24 save opportunities -- and is getting tired of
it. Kline walked pinch-hitter Kevin Young ahead of first baseman
Tino Martinez's two-run throwing error and Ramirez's two-run single
as the Pirates tied it at 6 with a four-run sixth.

"The bullpen's going to take the heat again,'' Kline said.
"It's been a bad year for us. But we don't need people to remind
us, we know it. I'm so tired of people reminding me about it, it's
gotten to the point where I want to punch someone in the face.''

Pittsburgh's Mike Williams wasn't much happier, and he got the
save. But it was anything but a clean save; he struck out Eduardo
Perez and got Albert Pujols to fly out with two runners on and a
run in.

Two nights before, Williams gave up Scott Rolen's go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth with the Pirates within a strike of
winning. The Cardinals won 10-8 in the 10th.

"I'm struggling a little bit and it's frustrating,'' Williams
said. "But it's part of baseball. If it was easy every time, it
wouldn't be much fun.''

Rolen homered again Sunday, a three-run shot in the fifth that
gave the Cardinals a 6-2 lead against surprise starter Brian
Meadows, who also surrendered Jim Edmonds' three-run homer in the

The Pirates brought up prospect Ryan Vogelsong from Triple-A
Nashville to start Sunday, only to tell him a few hours before game
time Meadows was pitching. General manager Dave Littlefield said he
and McClendon simply changed their minds.

Vogelsong was never officially placed on the 25-man active
roster and was sent back to Nashville.

Meadows was lifted after giving up eight hits and six runs in
five innings, but Cardinals starter Garrett Stephenson -- 5-1 in his
career against the Pirates -- couldn't hold the four-run lead.
Neither could Kline.

The Pirates took the lead in the seventh. Randall Simon, who had
three hits, doubled off Dustin Hermanson (1-2) and Jason Kendall
singled ahead of Reggie Sanders' walk. Abraham Nunez then broke the
tie with his sacrifice fly to left, and Lofton doubled just inside the third-base line.

The Pirates previously hadn't rallied from more than two runs
down to win.

"But this had nothing to do with the bullpen,'' manager Tony La
Russa said. "The starting pitcher was wild and walked guys. ...
It's a frustrating loss because we gave up three runs in a way they
should not have been given up.''

Errors by Martinez and Perez in right field were the Cardinals'
only two of the three-game series. They began the game with an
NL-best .991 fielding percentage, and they made a series of
excellent defensive plays in winning 6-0 Saturday.

It didn't help that second baseman Fernando Vina left after straining his right hamstring trying to beat out a grounder. Vina
had five hits in the series, three for extra bases.

"He got a nice little yank there. It's a tough time to get an
injury, when his stroke's really going,'' La Russa said.

Brian Boehringer (2-1) pitched a scoreless seventh inning for
the victory.

Game notes
Stephenson walked four in five-plus innings. ... The
Cardinals won't know Vina's status until he is examined Monday. ...
Ramirez had three consecutive hits from the third inning on, giving
him 16 in a span of 28 at-bats. ... The Pirates still haven't won
any of their nine home series this season, going 0-8-1. ...
Pittsburgh won for only the sixth time in 21 games. ... Lofton's
hitting streak is the NL's longest this season and the majors'
second longest to Nomar Garciaparra's 25-game streak for Boston.
Lofton's streak is tied for the fourth longest in club history.