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Lofton's hit streak reaches 26 games in victory

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Kenny Lofton extended his streak and helped
Jeff Suppan snap one of his own.

Lofton homered to extend his hitting streak to 26 games and Jeff
Suppan snapped his five-game losing skid as the Pittsburgh Pirates
beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-3 Friday night.

Lofton hit his sixth homer on the first pitch of the third from
Garrett Stephenson (3-4) to match Boston's Nomar Garciaparra for
the longest hitting streak in the major leagues this season.

"I don't want to talk about that," Lofton said. "Next
question."

Lofton didn't mind talking about his overall game since leaving
the Giants to sign a free-agent deal in the offseason.

"I don't think I have to prove anything," Lofton said. "I
know what I can do and they know what I can do.

"I'm just going out there doing what I do and things are
working out for me."

Randall Simon added a two-run shot in the second and Aramis
Ramirez was 3-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games for
the Pirates, who have won four of five. Craig Wilson had a two-run
double and Jeff Reboulet had a squeeze bunt in a three-run sixth.

"All of our components are working," manager Lloyd McClendon
said. "Starting pitching has been decent, our offense has been
great and our bullpen has certainly turned the corner."

The Pirates are only 11-27 against the Cardinals the last three
seasons.

The Cardinals fell to 2-3 on a 13-game homestand, the longest of
the season. Tino Martinez and Mike Matheny had back-to-back RBI
doubles and Stephenson added a run-scoring single in the fourth.

"We haven't played flat," Martinez said. "The effort is
there, we're just not coming through in the end.

"But I'm not concerned about this team."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa arrived at Busch Stadium in the
first inning after attending the sentencing in California of a man
who pleaded no contest to assaulting one of La Russa's daughters in
1998.

Suppan (5-5) lasted five innings, giving up three runs and seven
hits to win for the first time in seven starts since April 22. He
lost 6-0 to Matt Morris and the Cardinals last Saturday in
Pittsburgh, and had a 5.80 ERA during the slump.

"Supe didn't have his best stuff," McClendon said. "He missed
his spots and a couple of times it hurt him.

"But he gave us five innings and he gave us a chance to get a
lead."

Lofton asked for a day off on Wednesday, avoiding the Cubs' Mark
Prior, and the Pirates did not play on Thursday.

"It was good," Lofton said. "It's not like it was drastic or
anything, but it's always good to come back full speed after an
off-day."

Lofton, who had two hits, is batting .406 (43-for-106) during
the streak, the longest for the Pirates since Danny O'Connell also
hit in 26 in a row in 1953 and one shy of the team record set by
Jimmy Williams in 1899. He broke the record for a left-handed
hitter, which was set by Charlie Grimm in 1923.

Stephenson (3-4) allowed six runs and nine hits in seven
innings. He had previously been 3-0 at Busch Stadium with a 1.27
ERA this year.

Stephenson bristled a bit at a reporter who asked whether the
outing would be difficult to shake off.

"Oh, I'm fine," he said. "Don't worry about me, you worry
about yourself. I'll worry about me and we'll be fine."

Stephenson earned only the sixth RBI of his career with his
single up the middle in the fourth. He's a career .081 hitter.

Ramirez is batting .500 (28-for-56) during his hitting streak,
which matches his career best set in 2000.

Brian Giles hit an RBI double in the ninth off Steve Kline to
make it 7-3.

Game notes
Suppan's losing streak was the longest by a Pirates pitcher
since Todd Ritchie was 0-8 to start the 2001 season. Suppan lost a
career-worst nine straight decisions from July 23-Sept. 18, 2002.
... St. Louis 3B Scott Rolen was 0-for-4, ending a seven-game
hitting streak during which he'd gone 13-for-27 with two homers and
10 RBIs. He was 8-for-15 during the just-completed four-game series
against the Astros. ... The Pirates are 7-1 in the opening game of
their road series this season, with the only loss at Houston on May
12.