Cards try to secure another losing season for Bucs

While the St. Louis Cardinals are still alive in a pair of playoff races, the Pittsburgh Pirates are once again headed for a losing season.

Edwin Jackson looks to pitch his Cards to a series victory this afternoon and secure the Pirates' 19th straight season of sub-.500 baseball in the finale of a three-game set at PNC Park.

After dropping Monday's series opener, the Cardinals rebounded last night to claim a 6-4 victory for their sixth victory in seven games. The triumph kept St. Louis 4 1/2 games behind the wild card-leading Braves and 6 1/2 back of the National League Central-leading Brewers after the two clubs also won on Tuesday.

Nick Punto hit a go-ahead RBI double in the top of the ninth and Albert Pujols added a sacrifice fly in the game for the Cards, who have won five of their last seven versus Pittsburgh and lead the season series, 8-7.

"It was a good, gutty, hang in there type of win, especially (after) yesterday," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, referring to the 6-5 setback on Monday.

St. Louis could be without Matt Holliday in this game after he left in the ninth inning with a right hand injury that will be examined today.

"I did something to my hand taking a swing," Holliday told St. Louis' website. "It's a ligament or a tendon problem. I was just swinging a bat and I couldn't swing it anymore."

The Cardinals may be able to overcome the loss of offense given how Jackson has performed since coming over before the non-waiver trade deadline. The right-hander is 4-2 with a 3.39 earned run average in nine starts since joining St. Louis and has won three of his last four decisions.

Jackson has not allowed more than three earned runs in seven straight games, but has not factored into the decision of his last two starts. That includes Friday versus the Braves even though he allowed two runs over six innings.

The 28-year-old has never lost to the Pirates, going 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA in four meetings. He beat them on Aug. 25, allowing four runs over six innings, though just one run was earned.

Jackson will be aiming to deal Pittsburgh its 82nd loss of the season, which would extend the franchise's current North American professional sports record of consecutive losing seasons that currently stands at 18 straight since the team's last winning season in 1992.

The Pirates seemed poised to end the run as they were tied for first place in the division on July 25. However, they are just 14-34 since and last night's loss was their 11th in the past 16 games.

Andrew McCutchen and Derrek Lee both homered last night and will try to give similar support today to Charlie Morton, who is pitching on nine days' rest in an attempt to limit his innings total, which currently stands at a career-high 153 2/3 frames.

Morton has lost three straight starts -- all on the road -- and gave up three earned runs on seven hits and a season high-tying five walks over 4 1/3 innings of a loss to the Cubs on Sept. 4. He fell to 9-9 with a 3.81 ERA on the season and has won just once in his last nine starts.

"It's frustrating when you're struggling," said Morton, who owns a 3.76 ERA at home this season.

The 27-year-old righty is 2-4 with a 6.69 ERA in eight career starts versus the Cardinals, who began his current losing streak by reaching him for five runs over 4 1/3 innings on Aug. 25.