PITTSBURGH — For a change, the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t need a lot of long balls to win. Just a couple of long innings against the Pirates, a team all too acquainted with them.
Yadier Molina drove in three runs and the Cardinals twice batted around during big innings, beating Pittsburgh 11-4 on Sunday for the Pirates’ 12th loss of six runs or more in 31 games.
Adam Wainwright (5-1) gave up two runs and five hits over six innings — the 25th time in 26 starts dating to last season he’s permitted three runs or fewer while lasting at least six innings. He is 16-5 in those starts.
“I wasn’t really that good,” said Wainwright, whose only substandard start during that stretch was a 14-7 win in Pittsburgh late last season. “For some reason I find it hard to bring my ‘A’ game to this stadium. I don’t know why. But my team gave me a chance to win.”
The Cardinals didn’t need nearly as much offense as they got against Pittsburgh, one of the majors’ most perplexing clubs. The Pirates are 10-2 in games decided by two runs or fewer — normally, a sign of a contending club — but they have been blown out in more than one-third of their games.
The Pirates already have losses by margins of 20, 14, nine and eight runs (three times), plus three losses of seven runs and three by six runs, and the season isn’t one-fifth over. They have won only twice by six runs or more while going 14-17.
“Unfortunately, your starters are going to have these games,” manager John Russell said.
St. Louis took two of three in the series despite not homering. They homered 31 times in their first 29 games.
“I guess we turned the page from our offense early in the year that was all about the homer. Now we’re stringing some hits together and working runs,” Ryan Ludwick said.
Some defense, too.
Ludwick, the left fielder, took potential extra-base hits away from leadoff batters Aki Iwamura in the first and Garrett Jones in the second, when the game was scoreless.
“I told him, ‘Your defense on those two plays changed the complexion of the whole game,”’ manager Tony La Russa said.
So did the Cardinals’ four-run third inning, when Paul Maholm (2-3) walked three while facing 10 batters. A pair of backups making spot starts contributed important hits as Joe Mather singled in a run and Nick Stavinoha added a run-scoring double.
Maholm got off to a bad start by needing 10 pitches to retire Wainwright on a grounder and ended up throwing 54 pitches in the inning. He threw only 53 of his 93 pitches for strikes while lasting 3 1-3 innings.
No. 9 hitter Tyler Greene followed Wainwright’s extended at-bat with a double, and the productive inning was on.
“Just not a good day. I’m disappointed,” Maholm said. “It’s going to happen but you never feel good about it.”
Left fielder Lastings Milledge couldn’t hold onto Ludwick’s wind-blown fly ball during a two-run fourth, with Ludwick credited with a triple. St. Louis then put it away by sending 11 to the plate during a five-run sixth.
“It’s my first day playing out there with the wind and I set up too early,” Milledge said. “But no excuses.”
Molina had a two-run single and pinch-hitter Colby Rasmus also singled in a run, while reliever Brian Bass walked three during the sixth.
Garrett Jones hit a two-run single in the fourth for the Pirates’ only scoring against Wainwright, who has yielded as many as three runs only once in seven starts.
NOTES: The Pirates committed two errors and walked eight. … The Cardinals are 52-26 in Pittsburgh since PNC Park opened in 2001, the best winning percentage (.667) of any club that has played at least 50 games there. … St. Louis had 11 runs, 11 hits and left 11 on base. … The gametime temperature was 47, with winds in the 20-mph range. … Albert Pujols’ strikeout in the fourth was his first in 27 at-bats against Maholm.