Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle firmly believes the city can become a baseball town once again.
At the rate his team is going, it might be by the end of the week.
Alex Presley hit a game-ending single with two outs in the 11th inning, lifting the Pirates to a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a doubleheader on Tuesday. As an encore the Bucs beat the Cards, 6-0, in game two.
Presley hit a sharp bouncer that deflected off the glove of pitcher Kevin Siegrist (0-1) and away from shortstop Pete Kozma, who was moving toward second base. Kozma could not recover and the ball rolled into the outfield, allowing Russell Martin to sprint all the way home from second base.
With the wins, the Pirates moved into first-place in the NL Central.
“It’s a battle, it’s fun,” said Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett. “Let’s roll from here. Let’s keep going.”
The wins gave Pittsburgh its third victory in less than 24 hours over the Cardinals, who have lost a season-high six straight. Burnett pitched seven emotionally charged innings, giving up one run on three hits, striking out nine and walking three. Though he has just one victory since May 3, Burnett’s performance set the tone and the bullpen followed his lead.
Vin Mazzaro (6-2) picked up the victory after retiring three of the four batters he faced in the 11th.
The Cardinals lead the NL in runs and batting average, but have scored just five runs in their last 47 innings and went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position in the opener.
“We had some hard-hit balls with runners in scoring position,” manager Mike Matheny said. “It just didn’t work out.”
St. Louis’ best chance came in the 10th when they put runners on the corners with one out. Matt Holliday ripped a grounder that Pittsburgh shortstop Clint Barmes backhanded and turned into Holliday’s NL-leading 24th double play of the season.
Lance Lynn was dominant in six innings for the Cardinals, but was long gone by the time Presley came through against Siegrist.
“He was right on, everything he was doing today,” Matheny said of Lynn. “If we keep him doing it the rest of the season we’re going to win a lot of games.”
The Pirates survived by doing what they’ve done for most of the first four months of the season, riding another stellar effort from baseball’s top pitching staff and getting just enough hitting to win.
Presley’s slapper capped a 3-hour, 52-minute marathon that had all the makings of playoff baseball. A packed PNC Park — on a Tuesday afternoon no less — buzzed as Burnett and Lynn matched each other for the better part of two hours.
Burnett received a bit of help with two on and one out in the first when center fielder Andrew McCutchen made a diving grab of a sinking liner by Carlos Beltran. The Gold Glover then hopped to his feet and alertly doubled up Holliday.
Jay struck out swinging leading off the sixth but moved all the way to second when the ball slipped away from Martin, the Pirates’ catcher, and rolled toward the backstop. Martin strolled to pick up the ball, thinking it was foul, allowing Jay to reach second base.
Martin, Burnett and Hurdle began an animated discussion with home plate umpire Eric Cooper that spilled over into Holliday’s at-bat. At one point Cooper came out from behind the plate and walked toward Burnett, pointing at the pitcher and yelling.
The call, however, seemed only to fire up Burnett. The fiery ace struck out Holliday, got Beltran to fly out to left and knocked down a grounder by Mike Adams before emphatically firing to first to beat the lumbering Adams to the bag to get out of the inning.
The histrionics were even louder in the seventh when Burnett struck out pinch-hitter Allen Craig with the 113th and final pitch of his day. Burnett let loose an elaborate fist-pump before making his way to the dugout following arguably his sharpest outing of the season.
Lynn was just as spectacular. He needed to be on a day when he didn’t receive the kind of backing that allowed him to enter the game with 12 victories, the second-highest total in the National League.
Pittsburgh scratched across a run in the first when Alvarez doubled home McCutchen, but the Pirates didn’t get a runner to third over Lynn’s final five innings. He allowed one run on three hits, striking out seven and walking just two.
NOTES: Cardinals CF Jon Jay’s team record for consecutive errorless games ended at 245 when he misplayed a single by Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte in the fifth inning that allowed Marte to advance to second. Jay’s previous error came on Aug. 24, 2011 ... St. Louis sent struggling reliever Marc Rzepczynski to Cleveland on Tuesday in exchange for minor league infielder Juan Herrera. Rzepczynski had a 7.84 ERA in 10 1-3 innings this season with the Cardinals ... Pirates 2009 first-round pick Tony Sanchez will get his first big-league start at catcher in the nightcap.