PITTSBURGH (AP) — Albert Pujols’ home run in the first inning struck halfway up the batter’s backstop in center field, the kind of drive that can unnerve a pitcher. Instead, it almost seemed to calm down Zach Duke.
Duke responded to Pujols’ homer by limiting St. Louis to three singles the rest of the way while pitching eight innings, and the Pittsburgh Pirates ended an eight-game losing streak by beating the Cardinals 7-1 on Tuesday night.
Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss both broke out of slumps with homers for the Pirates.
“Man, it’s so nice to get a win,” Moss said.
Njyer Morgan’s two-run triple finished off a four-run second inning that included Duke’s run-scoring single and the Pirates — back in last place in the NL Central — won for the only second time in 14 games since April 26. They were 11-7 when the slide began but are now 13-19.
“We were desperate to get that streak over and start a winning streak,” Duke said. “Who knows, maybe a 15-game or 20-game winning streak started tonight.”
The Cardinals did almost nothing against Duke (4-3) following Pujols’ 21st home run in 63 games at PNC Park, the most by an opposing player. Pujols’ drive was his second off Duke in two games since Wednesday — when the Cardinals beat the left-hander 4-2 — and was his 13th this season.
Pujols is 15 for 33 against Duke, and the homer was his fourth consecutive hit off him in two games.
“That’s what that guys does, he’s paid to hit balls like that and he does a very good job of it,” Duke said.