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Furcal laces an RBI double in the third inning

PITTSBURGH -- Usually, Jake Westbrook can get comfortable.

On Monday, though, he couldn't settle down. Westbrook allowed five runs -- four earned -- on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings and the Cardinals lost, 6-2, to the Pirates at PNC Park.

The loss, combined with a Milwaukee win, put the Cardinals six games behind the Brewers in the National League Central.

Westbrook allowed a leadoff home run to Xavier Paul, but he followed the mistake by recording five straight groundouts. Three straight hits in the fourth by the Pirates, though, were Westbrook's undoing.

"I wasn't really controlling counts, and then on top of that, they were fouling a lot of balls off, so my pitch count was really high early on," Westbrook said. "Last couple times I've been that way, I've been able to settle in and get some quick innings, but it just kind of caught up with me."

Neil Walker and Garrett Jones hit back-to-back singles to lead off the fourth before Ryan Doumit came up and sent a hanging curveball into the seats in right-center field. His home run put the Pirates up 4-1.

In his career, Westbrook is 0-3 in seven appearances against the Pirates. All seven appearances have resulted in a loss for his team.

"They definitely capitalized on the mistakes that I made tonight," Westbrook said.

The Pirates drove Westbrook from the game with a run in the bottom of the sixth on an error by Rafael Furcal. Walker, at third after a walk and a single, ran about halfway home on a grounder by Ronny Cedeno. Furcal bounced the throw to catcher Yadier Molina, and the ball got far enough away to allow Walker to score.

Westbrook had just one perfect inning, the fifth, in which he induced two groundouts and a soft liner to second.

"He'd miss the strike zone and fall behind, then he'd come back and make a real good pitch and then he made a couple mistakes," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He could have been sharper and the offense could have been sharper, and it would have been a closer game."

Reliever Mitchell Boggs allowed one more run in the bottom of the seventh. He struck out the first two batters he faced, but walked Ryan Ludwick and gave up an RBI double to Walker.

The Cardinals tied the game at 1 in the third when Ryan Theriot scored on a double by Furcal, and they added another run in the sixth when Albert Pujols singled and scored on a single by David Freese.

Matt Holliday led off the second and fourth innings with doubles but never scored.

"The name of the game is execution," La Russa said. "We had a double twice, couldn't score a run. A lot of that's their pitching, some of it is we could have done a better job."

St. Louis had a chance to tie it in the top of the seventh. With two outs, Skip Schumaker singled and Furcal walked, bringing Pujols to the plate as the tying run with two runners on. He worked the count to 3-2 and fouled off several pitches, but Pirates reliever Jose Veras got a called strike three to end the inning.

"Veras is a guy who has tremendous stuff," Doumit said. "We went with his curveball because we thought that was his best chance to get him off-balance. In my opinion, I thought we struck him out twice that at-bat."

Pirates starter James McDonald picked up the win. He pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on six hits. He struck out four.

Theriot, who was 3-for-4 on the night, was the only Cardinals player to manage a hit in the last two innings. Veras pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and closer Joel Hanrahan pitched the ninth even though it was not a save situation.

"McDonald did a good job, threw strikes and gave them a chance," Theriot said. "These guys have a really good bullpen and were able to close the door." Comments