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Pirates outlast Cards for win in 19-inning game

| Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, 8:34 p.m.
The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez gestures after hitting a solo home run off St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Barret Browning during the 19th inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. The Pirates won 6-3 in 19 innings. (AP Photo/Jeff Curry)
The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez hits the game winning solo home run during the 19th inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. The Pirates won 6-3 in 19 innings. (AP)
The St. Louis Cardinals and the Pirates play into the seventeenth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
The St. Louis Cardinals and the Pirates play into the seventeenth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
Pirates' Jose Tabata (is tagged out by St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Daniel Descalso, left, on a pickoff throw by catcher Yadier Molina during the thirteenth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday reacts after being called out at first base during the eleventh inning of a baseball game against the Pirates, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran reacts after popping out to Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez during the ninth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
The Pirates' Josh Harrison (5) hits a sacrifice fly that scored Clint Barmes during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen (22) hits a one-run single which scored Jeff Karstens during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday (7) slides past Pirates catcher Michael McKenry and scores on a double by Carlos Beltran during the fourth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday (7) and Allen Craig celebrate after both scored on a double by Carlos Beltran during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Pirates, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Karstens reacts after making a throwing error on a bunted ball by St. Louis Cardinals' Rafael Furcal during the third inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran, right, hits a two-run double off Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Karstens during the fourth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Karstens throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP)
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen hits a two-run single during the 19th inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. The Pirates won 6-3 in 19 innings. (AP)
St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Barret Browning (62) looks on as the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez runs the bases after hitting a solo home run during the nineteenth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in St. Louis. The Pirates won 6-3 in 19 innings. (AP)

ST. LOUIS — As rookie reliever Jared Hughes basked in the postgame glow of the Pirates' 6-3, 19-inning win Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals, he was struck by a thought.

“Hey,” Hughes wondered aloud. “Didn't we play a 19-inning game last year?”

It was an innocent question. After all, Hughes did not join the Pirates until early September 2011, more than five weeks after umpire Jerry Meals blew the call in a late-night loss against the Atlanta Braves.

But as Sunday's game against the Cardinals unfolded — with its rallies, near-misses, superb pitching and great defensive plays — the Pirates didn't want to think back to Meals and the disappointing weeks that followed last season.

“We talked about it a little, but we just kinda laughed about it,” said Jeff Karstens, who pitched the first seven innings and gave up two runs. “Ultimately, it was a day of pitching until that last inning.”

In the 19th inning, with the Pirates and Cardinals running out of patience and fresh arms, Pedro Alvarez smacked a solo homer to make it 4-3. Andrew McCutchen padded the lead with a two-out, two-run single.

According to Elias, Alvarez's shot was the latest homer ever hit by a Pittsburgh player. The Pirates are the first team to score three runs in the 19th inning or later since the Montreal Expos got three in the 19th on July 7, 1985, against the Houston Astros.

“A huge win,” Alvarez said. “It took everybody putting in their best effort. It was a grind. When you play 19 innings and lose, it's a bit deflating. To win such a long game, such a well-played game, it gives you a rush of energy.”

Wandy Rodriguez (8-12) tossed two scoreless innings to notch his first win since being traded to the Pirates. The loss went to Cardinals left-hander Barrett Browning (1-3).

“That was a backyard tug-of-war,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “At this time of the season, I don't think you could ask for opportunities to gain more meaningful experience.”

By taking two out of three games in the series, the Pirates stayed two games ahead of the third-place Cardinals in the NL Central. First-place Cincinnati leads the division by seven games.

It was the most innings the Pirates had worked to win a road game since Aug. 25, 1979, when they beat the San Diego Padres, 4-3, in 19 innings. Overall, it was the Pirates' longest extra-inning game, win or lose, since July 26, 2011 — the infamous 19-inning loss in Atlanta.

“We weren't thinking about that,” McCutchen said. “We just kept fighting.”

The Pirates tied the game, 2-2, in the sixth inning by scoring two unearned runs off starter Jaime Garcia. It stayed that way until the 17th, when Pirates took a 3-2 lead.

With one out, pinch hitter James McDonald dropped a single into center field. After a flyout and a wild pitch, Alvarez was intentionally walked. Clint Barmes was hit by a pitch. Garrett Jones hit a slow roller that caromed toward first base for a run-scoring single.

However, right-hander Juan Cruz couldn't nail down the save. Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker singled, and Tony Cruz tied it, 3-3, with a sacrifice fly.

Hurdle had no choice but to use Rodriguez to start the 18th. The left-hander had been scheduled to start Monday against the San Diego Padres.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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