The Commercial Appeal
St. Louis completes sweep of Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH — Several players who have given the Pirates trouble for years helped the St. Louis Cardinals finish a rare sweep in Pittsburgh.
Mike Leake pitched seven effective innings, Matt Holliday homered and the Cardinals cruised to an 8-3 victory Sunday.
Randal Grichuk also homered for surging St. Louis, which has won five consecutive games and swept a series at PNC Park for the first time since August 2009. Holliday and Yadier Molina each had three hits.
“We just tried to come here and play the game the right way and tried to win games, and obviously we haven’t done this in a long time here, a sweep,” Molina said. “This is great; we played a great three games.”
Molina and Holliday have combined for 310 career hits against Pittsburgh. Leake won seven straight decisions versus the Pirates before losing his previous outing against them in April.
St. Louis entered the weekend having lost 22 of its past 31 in Pittsburgh, but won a series at PNC Park for the first time since 2012.
“At the end of the day, you’re still trying to pinpoint what they don’t hit the best,” said Leake, who pitched for the Cincinnati Reds before this season. “My fastball-cutter combination was working pretty well.”
Leake (5-4) won for the fifth time in six decisions, limiting the Pirates to two earned runs and six singles with no walks and six strikeouts. He also went 2 for 3 at the plate and scored during the Cardinals’ three-run third.
The slumping Pirates have lost a season-worst five straight and fell a season-high 12 games behind the first-place Cubs in the NL Central. The second-place Cardinals remained nine games back.
St. Louis scored four times in the sixth, capped by Grichuk’s solo homer to left field that ended the evening for Pirates starter Jonathon Niese. Grichuk snapped out of a 2-for-24 slump with the home run, his eighth.
Niese (6-3) lost for the first time since May 9. He was charged with season highs for runs (eight) and hits (11).
“A couple innings there snowballed on me,” Niese said. “And that was the difference.”
Holliday’s two-out solo homer in the first inning was his 11th of the season and second in two games.