ST. LOUIS — The Pittsburgh Pirates were oh so close to ending a three-game losing streak and building on their NL Central lead.
About two hours after left fielder Starling Marte dropped a routine fly ball and put the St. Louis Cardinals in position to force extra innings, they had all but emptied their bench in vain in a 4-3, 14-inning loss Tuesday night that kept them skidding.
Trying his best to lessen the blow for Marte, manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged the outfielder was “probably not in a good place right now,” but pointed out that the Pirates had plenty of other chances.
“It’s not like he wanted to drop the ball,” Hurdle said. “We got nicked for a run, we had to play five more after that. At the end we weren’t able to push another run across after the second.”
The error was Marte’s seventh of the season and second in five games.
Adron Chambers singled home the winning run, and Sam Freeman (1-0) allowed a walk in an inning for the Cardinals, who saddled the Pirates with their fourth straight loss and pulled within two games of them with a win in the 4-hour, 55-minute game.
“The good ball players, when something happens, they bounce back,” Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton said.
Both teams’ bullpen depth might be a factor Wednesday night when Francisco Liriano (12-5, 2.83) opposes Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller (11-7, 2.89).
“If you were to know the outcome of the game, you’d prefer to save your arms,” Morton said. “Anytime you have a game that goes on in extra innings, especially a few extra, extra innings, you just hope the bullpen isn’t too taxed.
“Especially for this series.”
Pittsburgh had four hits the first time through the order against Adam Wainwright and led 3-0 after two innings on homers by Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer. They had six hits the rest of the way.
Both teams had chances in extra innings before the Cardinals, who had dropped four of five, cashed in.
Jon Jay singled off Jared Hughes (2-3) with one out in the 14th with his fourth hit. Jay stole second and then raced home and beat left fielder Marte’s throw.
The Pirates loaded the bases with one out in the 13th before Seth Maness got Josh Harrison to ground into a double play.
Pittsburgh got two key outs in extra innings by forcing Maness to bat. Right fielder Josh Wilson was moved into a five-man infield before participating in a rare 6-9-3 double play to end the 11th. Jeanmar Gomez finished his third scoreless inning by striking out Maness with the bases loaded in the 13th.
Maness was inserted into the cleanup spot following a double switch, replacing Matt Holliday, who slipped off a base and injured an ankle. X-rays were negative.
The Cardinals forced extra innings and gave Mark Melancon a blown save, aided by Marte, who dropped Daniel Descalso’s routine fly ball for a two-base error with one out in the ninth. Descalso scored the tying run on Allen Craig’s single.
Wainwright was the first National League pitcher to 13 wins but is 0-2 in four starts since then. He has worked seven innings in all of them although he needed 122 pitches against the Pirates.
He allowed three runs and five hits with six strikeouts and a season-high three walks.
Jay had three hits and an RBI for the Cardinals, who have been offensively challenged while losing six of the first eight on a 10-game homestand.
David Freese is 2 for 13 with the bases loaded after shattering his bat grounding into a double play that got the Cardinals on the board in the sixth. Charlie Morton threw one pitch behind Freese not long after getting a visit from pitching coach Ray Searage.
The Pirates’ defense was perfectly placed behind reliever Bryan Morris for pinch-hitter Matt Adams’ lineout to second baseman Neil Walker in shallow right field with two on to end the eighth.
Wainwright got three extra days’ rest after lacking a put-away pitch in recent efforts. He still had to fight for outs, needing 33 pitches to get out of the first, although the Pirates had just two hits off him after Mercer’s homer in the second.
The Cardinals mandated a getaway day for players after a 2-5 start to the homestand.
Andrew Lambo was 0-3 with a pair of groundouts and a strikeout in his major league debut for the Pirates. He got the start after Jose Tabata was scratched with flu-like symptoms. Lambo has hit 31 homers at Double-A and Triple-A this year, tied for the most in the minors.
Morton allowed two runs in six innings against a team that has punished him. He entered 2-6 with a 6.30 ERA against St. Louis and has lost five consecutive decisions.
Notes: Cardinals C Yadier Molina took part in most field activities for the second day and plans on playing Thursday, the first day he is eligible to come off the DL from a right knee injury. St. Louis was 5-7 the first 12 games without Molina, who told reporters it has been tough watching. ... Liriano (12-5, 2.83) and Miller (11-7, 2.89) are both among the NL ERA leaders. Miller lasted just two pitches in his last outing when he was drilled on his pitching elbow on a liner by the Dodgers’ Carl Crawford, but escaped with a bruise. ... Marte was hit by a pitch for the 20th time this season when he led off the fifth. Before the game, Hurdle referred to Marte as a “Pinata.”