PITTSBURGH – Daniel McCutchen pitched six shutout innings for his third victory as a major league starter, Neil Walker tripled with the bases loaded and the Pittsburgh Pirates dealt the St. Louis Cardinals another damaging loss by winning 5-2 on Wednesday night.
Dropping their fourth consecutive series against a losing-record team, the Cardinals fell 3½ games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central. St. Louis also remained a game back in the NL wild card race.
The Pirates, on pace to lose more than 100 games, had lost 13 of 15 before beating St. Louis on successive nights. Walker, a rookie batting .325 since July 17, also drove in three runs as Pittsburgh won 4-3 on Tuesday.
Walker's triple in the third came after Jake Westbrook (1-2) got into trouble by hitting Chris Snyder with a pitch and Andrew McCutchen beat out an infield single. Jose Tabata, another rookie, made it 4-0 an inning later with an RBI single, his sixth hit of the three-game series.
The Cardinals have fallen into an unusual pattern since the All-Star break: They beat good teams but lose to mediocre or bad ones. They are 12-2 against top clubs but 9-13 against teams that are .500 or own losing records. This month alone, they have dropped series to the Astros, Cubs, Brewers and Pirates.
McCutchen (2-5) wasn't supposed to oppose St. Louis, but found out Tuesday night that scheduled starter Jeff Karstens was being skipped due to arm fatigue. The right-hander responded with the best of his 14 career starts, striking out five and walking two while giving up three hits.
The Cardinals never advanced a runner past second against McCutchen, who pitched with multiple runners on base only once. He got Pedro Feliz to pop up with runners on first and second in the fourth.
McCutchen hadn't started since losing in St. Louis 11-1 on July 31, giving up four runs in 5 2-3 innings. His only other victory as a starter this starter was a 3-2 decision over Philadelphia on July 1 in which he lasted 5 1-3 innings. He made six starts last season, but his only victory came when he beat Cincinnati 3-1 on Oct. 2.
Chris Resop replaced McCutchen in the seventh and promptly gave up Felipe Lopez's seventh home run, a drive that scraped the right field foul pole. Pirates manager John Russell questioned whether the ball struck slightly below the foul pole, but the umpires did not review the call.
Wil Ledezma avoided further scoring in the inning by striking out pinch-hitter Allen Craig with two runners on.
Garrett Jones hit his 19th homer, a solo drive in the Pirates eighth against Blake Hawksworth.
NOTES: The Cardinals play 22 of their remaining 38 games against sub-.500 teams. ... Tabata is 12 for 23 (.522) against St. Louis. ... Between starts against St. Louis, Daniel McCutchen had a 1.74 ERA in nine relief outings. ... Pittsburgh had dropped nine of 11 against St. Louis in PNC Park before winning successive games. ... Westbrook made his fifth start with St. Louis since being traded by Cleveland, and the first of his career against Pittsburgh. He gave up four runs and six hits in six innings.
(This version CORRECTS Pirates 5, Cardinals 2. Deletes incorrect reference in next-to-last graf to save for Hanrahan.)