Pittsburgh Pirates' Gregory Polanco looks skyward after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monday, July 4, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson
July 04, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) Gregory Polanco found the best way to take the pressure off his ailing left hamstring.

The Pittsburgh outfielder simply drove the ball over the wall twice on Monday to lead the Pirates to a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Left-hander Jonathon Niese (7-6) turned in his strongest performance in almost a month for Pittsburgh, which has won five in a row, all on the road. St. Louis had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Polanco's two-run homer in the sixth off Carlos Martinez (7-6) put the Pirates ahead to stay 2-1. He added a solo shot in the eighth for the first two-homer game of his career.

`'Hitting and swinging, I don't feel it at all, it doesn't bother me,'' Polanco said. ''I'm grateful for that. And I'm glad it's getting better.''

Polanco struggled running to first on a ground ball in the opening inning. But he had little trouble leisurely trotting around the bases twice.

''He's continuing to be a force in the lineup,'' Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. ''A real strong performance.''

Niese (7-6) allowed just one run on seven hits over 5 2-3 innings. He struck out three and walked one. Niese had given up at least four earned runs in each of his last four starts including surrendering eight earned runs in an 8-3 loss to St. Louis at home on June 12.

''You can't dwell on the past games, they're over with,'' Niese said. ''So, I just focused on what's ahead. I use my sinker more, cutter less. I was able to keep them honest.''

Relievers Arquimedes Caminero, Juan Nicasio and Neftali Feliz combined to allow one run over the final 3 1-3 innings. Feliz picked up his first save of the season despite giving up a run-scoring double to Matt Carpenter in the ninth. Feliz retired Matt Holliday on a fly out with two runners on to end the game.

The Cardinals went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.

''Guys had a good plan, they had an idea of what they wanted to do,'' St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. ''We just couldn't get that big hit. We left a little too much on the table.''

The Pittsburgh bullpen had gone 34 1-3 innings without allowing a run, prior to Carpenter's RBI hit. That is the longest streak in the majors this season.

Jaso pushed the lead to 3-1 with a run-scoring hit in the seventh off Martinez, who gave up three runs on nine hits over seven innings. He struck out seven, walked one and recorded his seventh successive quality start.

''I just tried to concentrate all the way through,'' Martinez said.

Carpenter gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the fifth.

Polanco, who leads the team with 50 RBI, played the previous six games as a designated hitter during the nine-game road trip. His last performance in the field came on June 23 against San Francisco.

Pittsburgh, which has won eight of 10, recorded its fourth successive come-from-behind win.


Pirates: C Chris Stewart was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left knee discomfort. C Eric Fryer, claimed on waivers from St. Louis on Sunday, was activated for Monday's game. RHP Rob Scahill was designated for assignment.

Cardinals: OF Tommy Pham was scratched from the starting lineup minutes before the game with right shoulder stiffness. LHP Kevin Siegrist remains on the 15-day disabled list due to mononucleosis. He is expected to be out until after the All-Star break.


RHP Mike Leake (5-6, 4.13) will take on LHP Steven Brault (0-0, 0.00), who will be called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, in the second game of the four-game series on Tuesday. Brault is replacing Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.86), who was placed on the 15-day disabled list after Monday's game with right shoulder fatigue.

''We're just going to back away (with him) right now,'' Hurdle said.

Brault was 2-3 with a 2.31 ERA in nine starts between Indianapolis and Class A West Virginia.


The Pirates also announced that RHP Gerrit Cole will make a rehab start on Tuesday in Indianapolis against Louisville. Cole was placed on the disabled list on June 14 with a strained right triceps. In addition, RHP Ryan Vogelsong will toss a 60-pitch/four inning simulated game on Tuesday. ... C Francisco Cervelli will catch the session. Vogelsong was placed on the disabled list May 23 after he was hit by a line drive against Colorado. Cervelli has been on the DL since mid-June with a broken bone in his left hand.

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