Bucs helped by homers, hurt by homers and errors

Bucs helped by homers, hurt by homers and errors

Bucs helped by homers, hurt by homers and errors
ST. LOUIS -- At least the Pirates are figuring out how to score runs.

Ironically enough, it was the pitching and defense that came up short on Tuesday night.

St. Louis pounded out three home runs and capitalized on four Pittsburgh errors to roll to a 10-7 win at Busch Stadium.

Pittsburgh, which has alternated wins and losses each of the last 12 games, scored five runs or fewer in its first 21 contests this season, a franchise record.

On Monday the suddenly powerful Pirates pushed that total aside with a 9-3 win over the Braves. Twenty-four hours later, they muscled across seven runs on nine hits.

Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez each ripped a two-run homer and Garrett Jones added a two-run single in the eighth to help the club to its second-highest scoring performance of the season.

Those offensive fireworks brought a hint of a smile to the face of manager Clint Hurdle, who was nonetheless displeased with the outcome.

"The bats are coming around, but we got outplayed across the board today," Hurdle said. "They pitched better than us, they hit better than us, they fielded better than us."

The red-hot Alvarez hit his second homer in as many nights and his sixth of the season, and he now has eight extra-base hits in the last seven games.

"I've been able to put some good wood on some balls," Alvarez said. "I'm just [feeling] strong out there. Ready to hit every time."

Whereas the offense kicked into high gear, the defense and pitching, which excelled early in the season, struggled mightily on Tuesday. The four errors led to three unearned runs, and those runs made the difference.

Starter Charlie Morton, not known for surrendering homers, gave up a three-run roundtripper to David Freese in the fifth that broke a 2-2 tie and put the hosts in front to stay.

Morton (1-2) surrendered six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out five, walked two and gave up his second home run in as many games. He gave up just six homers all of last season, the lowest total in the National League among starters with at least 100 innings.

Morton made six successive starts without a home run dating back to Aug. 31, 2011, before Colorado's Ramon Hernandez touched him for a two-run shot on Wednesday.

Freese drilled the first pitch 413 feet into the bleachers in right-center to break open a close game.

"He hit a sinker, which didn't sink -- I left it up," Morton said. "In general, the pitches were up."

Freese is well aware of Morton's reputation for not giving up long balls.

"He has a nasty sinker," Freese said. "You have to stay focused every time you get into the box against him."

The Pirates can take some consolation in their offensive performance. Neil Walker led the nine-hit attack with a pair of singles. He has hit safely in his last 10 road games and is riding an overall six-game hitting streak. He is 21-for-54 over the past 15 games.

Pittsburgh showed plenty of fight in battling back from five- and six-run deficits.

"That's kind of what we've been living by -- playing until the last pitch," Alvarez said. "Maybe if we play a little bit better defense earlier in the game, we won't find ourselves in this kind of desperate situation. But that was the situation in front of us and we just kept battling."

The Pirates scored three runs in the top of the eighth to close the gap. Jones plated Tabata and Andrew McCutchen with a two-out hit, and Walker followed with a single to put runners on first and third. But reliever Victor Marte induced pinch-hitter Nate McLouth to ground to first to end the threat.

The early mistakes and subsequent struggles by Morton proved too much to overcome.

"I did a poor job of minimizing damage," Morton said of the four-run fifth. "And it went downhill from there."

Steve Overbey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.