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Fresh off a sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks to open up their final home stand of the 2010 season, the Pirates welcomed the St. Louis Cardinals into town for a 3 game set at PNC Park. While the Cardinals are in a much better position than our battlin’ Buccos, they are still on the outside of the playoffs looking in, and came to Pittsburgh in desperate need of a tremendously hot finish to the season.

Tuesday, September 21: Paul Maholm pitched the finest game of his 2010 campaign, going 7 innings while only giving up 2 runs on 7 hits, lowering his ERA to 5.25, and helping the Pirates defeat the Cardinals in the first game of the series, 5-2 at PNC Park.

Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek pitched an inning of shutout baseball a piece, shutting down the St. Louis offense in the latter innings. The Buccos jumped on the board early in the first inning with three runs driven in by Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Doumit, and John Bowker respectively. Jose Tabata later tripled in the 4th inning, stretching the lead with his 2-RBI knock. The Pirates earned this victory on Tuesday, tallying their largest winning streak of the season at 4 straight games.

Wednesday, September 22: The offense exploded for the Pirates on Wednesday, obliterating Cardinals’ pitching on their way to an 11-6 victory, extending their winning streak to 5 games.

Pedro Alvarez went 2-5 with 1 HR and 4 RBI, while Garrett Jones and John Bowker each added 3 hits. In all, seven Pirates’ hitters tallied RBI’s, and Andrew McCutchen also added a multi-hit evening. Charlie Morton put on a nice performance for the Buccos, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits through 6 innings. The Pirates now set their sights on a series sweep of the Cardinals and a record 6 straight victories overall.

Thursday, September 23: The Cardinals’ offense finally came alive on the matinee at PNC Park on Thursday, and St. Louis snapped the Pirates’ five game winning streak, while ending a 3-game skid of their own, by a score of 9-2.

Albert Pujols played like the future hall-of-famer that he is, going 3-4 with 2 HR and 3 RBI. In all, the Red Birds tallied 15 hits off Pirates’ pitching. Brian Burres lasted only 2.1 innings, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits. Chan Ho Park, Sean Gallagher, and Will Ledezma didn’t fair much better, giving up 2 runs in 1 inning a piece.

The Pirates’ offense was certainly rare on Thursday. Pedro Alvarez doubled to deep right in the 4th to drive in Neil Walker, and Andrew McCutchen sac-flied Ryan Doumit home in the 7th, and these proved to be the only productive forms of offense.

So after a wonderful start to this series, the Pirates were completely out-matched on Thursday, which puts them within 1 loss of 100 for the season. This will be the first 100-loss season for the Pirates since 2001. The Bucs’ final home series of the season welcomes the Houston Astros to town for a 3-game set, followed by 2 road series which will close out the season against the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins. As unbelievable as this may seem, the Pirates have an outside shot of finishing the season with a winning record at home. With a series sweep of the Astros, Pittsburgh could finish with a winning record at PNC Park, which is astounding considering their overall record.

Current Record: 53-99

And…As Always…Let’s Go Bucs!