PITTSBURGH (AP) — Rich Hill kept the St. Louis Cardinals off balance in his longest start of the season and the Pittsburgh Pirates completed a three-game sweep with a 2-1 victory on Sunday.
The 43-year-old Hill (5-5) allowed just four hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out six as the Pirates pushed their winning streak to five.
Ji Hwan Bae’s two-run single off Miles Mikolas (4-2) in the first provided all the offense Hill would need as Pittsburgh swept their NL Central rivals for the first time in five years. Ke’Bryan Hayes singled three times and is hitting .562 (9 for 16) over his last four games after a 3-for-32 funk dropped him to seventh in the batting order.
David Bednar worked the ninth for his 13th save and third in as many days.
Andrew Kninzer’s seventh home run of the season pulled the Cardinals within a run in the seventh inning but St. Louis couldn’t close the gap. Tommy Edman added two hits and designated hitter Luken Baker — called up to the majors for the first time early Sunday — picked up the first two hits of his career. However, the Cardinals lost for the fifth time in six games when they couldn’t get to Hill.
The 19-year veteran — signed to a one-year, $8-million deal to serve as a mentor to a young starting staff — kept them at bay with breaking balls that sometimes failed to break 70 mph, offset by a fastball that remains effective.
The Cardinals put the leadoff hitter on in each of the first four innings but Hill managed to work his way out of trouble, symbolic of a series in which St. Louis left 27 runners on base.
Hill settled down after Paul DeJong walked to start the fourth, retiring 11 straight until Knizner sent the ball into the left-field bleachers with two outs in the seventh to bring the Cardinals within a run. Edman followed with a single to chase Hill but Pittsburgh reliever Dauri Moreta struck out Paul Goldschmidt to end the inning.
St. Louis spent most of May emerging from the rubble of a 10-24 start but their momentum has stalled over the last week, falling back into last place in one of the weakest divisions in the majors.
Mikolas tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts in his last start against Kansas City but wasn’t nearly as crisp during a rare Sunday morning matinee. He labored through five innings, allowing 10 hits for the third time this season and managing just two strikeouts.
Still, he managed to keep the Cardinals in it despite all the traffic on the bases. Only Pittsburgh’s inability to drive the ball and capitalize with runners in scoring position allowed St. Louis to hang around. The Pirates managed just one extra-base hit against Mikolas and failed to add to their early lead despite a handful of opportunities.
Cardinals: Continue a six-game road trip in Texas against the Rangers on Monday. Adam Wainwright (2-1, 6.15 ERA) faces Martín Pérez (6-1, 4.43) in the opener.
Pirates: A season-long nine-game homestand continues on Monday when lowly Oakland visits. Johan Oviedo (3-4, 4.50 ERA) gets the start against JP Sears (0-3, 4.37).