Struggling Sanchez takes the hill in St. Louis

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said left-hander Jonathan Sanchez will make his next start despite his recent struggles.

That start will take place Friday on the road at St. Louis in the opener of a three-game series against the NL Central-rival Cardinals.

"We're going to continue to work. It's still getting him in a good position here," Hurdle said. "He's repeating his delivery and the ball is coming out clean and he's throwing strikes. We've got basically three guys we're really trying to fine-tune and ramp up for better consistency off the mound. Jeff (Locke) being one, Sanchez being one and actually Jeanmar Gomez being one."

Sanchez has allowed seven walks, 11 runs and 12 hits in his last two starts, which has stretched across just 6 1/3 innings. He lasted just three innings in Sunday's 4-2 win over Atlanta and did not record a decision, allowing two runs and four hits with five K's and three walks.

The left-hander, who's in his first season with Pittsburgh, sports an 0-2 mark with an 11.12 earned run average in three starts. Sanchez has never lost to the Cardinals and is 3-0 with a 4.13 ERA in six career games (5 starts).

Pittsburgh hopes Sanchez won't ruin the buzz that's currently surrounding a team that took the last three contests of a four-game series in Philadelphia and won for the 12th time in 16 tries.

The Pirates got to the Phillies' bullpen in each of the last two installments, including Thursday's 6-4 win in the series finale. After the hosts grabbed a 3-1 lead with two runs in the sixth inning, the Pirates scored five straight runs over the seventh and eighth inning to take control.

Gaby Sanchez and Michael McKenry each drove in a run during the seventh, while Garrett Jones stroked a two-run double and Sanchez added a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Philadelphia got a run back in the bottom of the eighth, but the damage was already done.

"Everybody knows their role," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "Even if they don't start, they stay prepared and ready to go."

Justin Wilson came on in relief of James McDonald and struck out two over two innings. McDonald gave up three runs over the first five frames and Tony Watson tossed the last two for his first save. The three wins came against the Phillies' big three of Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

Pittsburgh won its first series in south Philly since 2003 at Veterans Stadium, which is now the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park.

The Pirates are 3-1 on a 10-game road trip through Philadelphia, St. Louis and Milwaukee.

St. Louis, which leads the Central Division by just one-half game over the Pirates and a full game ahead of Cincinnati, has been playing just as well as Pittsburgh with three straight wins and 12 in the past 17 tries.

The Cardinals completed an abbreviated nine-game road trip (6-3) by recording a sweep of the Washington Nationals in D.C., culminating with Wednesday's 4-2 triumph in the series finale. Matt Holliday went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored and Matt Carpenter added three hits and two runs scored.

Yadier Molina drove in a pair of runs for the Cardinals, who got to Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg for three runs in seven innings. It was enough to head back to the Gateway City on a high note.

"We had a tough task of going out and beating a tough pitcher," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "The guys played extremely well."

St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia rebounded from a rough outing to collect the win as he held the Nationals to a run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He was banged around on April 19 at Philadelphia to the tune of eight runs -- four earned -- and nine hits in just three innings.

Edward Mujica worked a scoreless ninth his fourth save.

"Obviously, they've done a great job," Garcia said of St. Louis' pitching staff. "But when it comes your day to pitch, you have to focus on what you can control and going out there and giving your team a chance to win. Overall, we've been doing a pretty good job."

The Cardinals are 4-2 at home as opposed to a 9-6 road mark, and will also host the Reds on the stand. Carlos Beltran didn't get a hit in the finale at Nationals Park, but is batting .343 with three homers, five RBI and 12 hits in the last nine games.

Lance Lynn looks to stay perfect on the season when he gets the nod for the Cardinals Friday night. At 3-0 with a 3.68 earned run average in four starts, Lynn is coming off his best outing so far this season. In Saturday's 5-0 blanking of Philadelphia, Lynn hurled seven shutout innings, allowed only one hit and struck out eight.

A four-run third inning was key for Lynn.

"Once we got a big lead, I didn't give them anything to get back into the game," said Lynn. "I am a better pitcher when I am pitching with a little chip on my shoulder. That's who I am and that's who I am going to be. There is a time for it and a time you have to stay within yourself, but that's who they want me to be and that's how I want to be."

Lynn, a right-hander, squeezed by the Pirates in a 10-6 win at PNC Park on April 15, when he was reached for four runs and seven hits in five innings. He is 3-1 with a 4.88 ERA in seven meetings (5 starts) with Pittsburgh.

St. Louis and Pittsburgh just split a shortened three-game series over a week ago at PNC Park. The middle contest was postponed for inclement weather.