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The Pittsburgh Pirates won a game without a run batted in, edging the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 Friday night at Busch Stadium.
Pittsburgh scored both of its runs off St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook (12-9) in a wild 4th inning that featured a wild pitch, followed by a passed ball. Both resulted in a runner at third base crossing the plate.
The Pirates started the inning with a walk to Travis Snider. Andrew McCutchen, who leads the National League in hitting with a .360 average, followed with a single up the middle. Garrett Jones singled to center to load the bases with no one out. With catcher Michael McKenry batting, Westbrook uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Snider to score the first run of the night, 1-0.
After McKenry reached on a fielding error by St. Louis shortstop Rafael Furcal, catcher Tony Cruz had a pitch from Westbrook go off his glove and to the backstop as McCutchen came flying home to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Cardinals hitters couldn't get much going against righthander James McDonald (11-5), who struck out seven in six innings pitched. In fact, Pirates pitchers combined to strike out ten Cardinals on the night.
St. Louis needed a spark, but got more of a temper flare in the 6th as third base coach Jose Oquendo was ejected by home plate umpire Lance Barrett after arguing a called strike with Jon Jay at the plate.
St. Louis showed some life in the 7th inning when Chris Resop came on in relief of McDonald. Carlos Beltran had a single to lead off the frame. Then, third baseman David Freese doubled to left, putting the tying and go ahead runs in scoring position with no one out. But Daniel Descalso flied out before Cruz drove in a run with a ground out to cut the lead in half, 2-1. Following another pitching change, Rafael Furcal ended the inning by popping out.
The Cardinals were retired in order in the 8th, and could only muster a walk against Pirates' closer Joel Hanrahan in the 9th.
St. Louis Manager Mike Matheny was clearly frustrated with the home plate umpire's strike zone. "It was significantly higher than what we've had this season. He establishes a zone. It doesn't mean we have to like it." When asked about making adjustments based on the widened zone, Matheny was firm. "I don't want guys swinging at those pitches. I don't want them swinging at chest high curve balls. Nothing's going to happen except popping them up anyhow."
Despite his one bad inning, Westbrook thought he pitched a good game, bouncing back after the wild pitch and passed ball to finish strong. "I got into a jam and uncorked a wild pitch, but I still felt like I controlled the damage a little bit, getting out of there with just two runs. I kind of battled through and was able to settle down a little bit." Westbrook went 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits, striking out three.
The loss drops St. Louis to 64-55 overall, two games behind Pittsburgh in the race for the National League's second wildcard spot.
The Cardinals will take on the Pirates Saturday afternoon at 3:05 at Busch Stadium. Lance Lynn (13-5, 3.65 ERA) takes the mound for St. Louis. He'll be opposed by Erik Bedard (7-12, 4.56 ERA).
The last time the Cardinals lost a game without an RBI by their opponent was on September 24th, 1995 at Houston, when the Astros won 1-0 in 10 innings on a throwing error by St. Louis pitcher Rich DeLucia.
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