The Cardinals have won seven of their last eight games, but did not cut into Atlanta's lead in the wild card standings. The Braves defeated Florida 4-1 on Wednesday and still own a 4 1/2-game advantage. St. Louis also pulled within 5 1/2 games of Milwaukee for the lead in the NL Central after the Brewers lost to Colorado Wednesday night.
Pittsburgh has lost five of its last six. The Pirates suffered their 82nd loss of the year and will finish with a losing record for the 19th straight season.
"Their attitude and effort is there every day," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got to improve our how-to for us to become a championship organization."
"Clint and his staff have done a very good job of playing baseball for nine innings and they've certainly played us tough," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said.
Edwin Jackson (5-2) went 6 2/3 innings in the victory, allowing two runs on eight hits. He struck out five and did not issue a walk.
Charlie Morton (9-10) absorbed the loss, lasting seven frames while giving up three runs on six hits and three walks. He fanned six. Morton lost his fourth consecutive start, and has not won since August 8 against San Francisco.
Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal left the game in the fifth inning with a left knee injury after he slid awkwardly into second on a stolen base attempt. Nick Punto came on to replace him. The injury came after star outfielder Matt Holliday left Tuesday night's game with a right hand injury.
Furcal led off the game with a double down the right field line and Jon Jay bunted him to third. After an Albert Pujols walk, Lance Berkman struck out to bring up Allen Craig with two outs. Craig laced an opposite-field double to plate Furcal and give the Cardinals a quick 1-0 advantage.
The Pirates squandered a huge opportunity in the second.
Derrek Lee singled and Ryan Ludwick doubled to put men on second and third with none out to start the frame. Pedro Alvarez grounded to first baseman Pujols, who fired home to get the force out. Ronny Cedeno followed with an inning-ending double play.
Pittsburgh got a run in the third to tie the game at 1-1 when Alex Presley poked an opposite-field double down the left field line, bringing home Michael McKenry, who also doubled.
Molina's double off the right field wall in the fourth scored Berkman and Craig to put the Cards back on top 3-1. Molina finished 2-for-4.
Berkman led off the sixth with a triple into the left field gap, but was stranded. Craig and Skip Schumaker struck out swinging, and Alvarez made a fine bare-handed play to get Molina out on a slow roller down the third base line.
Lee continued his hot day in the sixth by lacing a double to plate Presley and to trim the deficit to 3-2.
Jason Motte recorded his seventh save of the year with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Pittsburgh is 16-38 since being a season-high seven games over .500 (51-44) on July 19...Lee went 3-for-4...Presley went 2-for-4 with two doubles...The Pirates claimed catcher Matt Pagnozzi off waivers from the Colorado Rockies and transferred infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce to the 60-day disabled list.