ST. LOUIS – Brad Eldred hit a pair of solo shots for his first multihomer game and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen worked 7 1-3 innings after Oliver Perez was ejected, keeping the St. Louis Cardinals’ magic number for clinching the NL Central at two with a 5-3 victory Wednesday.

The Pirates won for only the fourth time in 19 games and denied the Cardinals a chance to clinch a tie for the division title at home. Einar Diaz had an RBI double for St. Louis, which completed a 6-4 homestand and begins a 10-game road trip that starts with a four-game series in Chicago on Thursday.

Looking for their fifth playoff berth in six years, the Cardinals could still clinch a tie for the NL Central championship later Wednesday night with a Houston loss to Florida. They took two of three from Pittsburgh.

Jason Bay homered, doubled and drove in two runs off Jason Marquis (12-14) for the Pirates, who finished 4-12 against the Cardinals this season. Bay is 10-for-19 against Marquis with three homers, four doubles, a triple and eight RBIs, and he added a third hit with a single in the seventh.

Eldred, the Pirates’ minor league player of the year last season, homered leading off the second and hit his ninth over the visitors’ bullpen in left field with one out in the sixth for a 4-1 lead.

Perez was ejected with two outs in the second inning after hitting Hector Luna in the left leg with a pitch during an otherwise quiet game between teams that feuded recently. Perez was on the 15-day disabled list with a broken big toe when the teams had a pregame scuffle on Aug. 24 in Pittsburgh that led to suspensions of Pirates batting coach Gerald Perry and Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan along with then-Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon.

This was Perry’s first game back after an eight-game banishment. Plate umpire Eric Cooper appeared to warn Marquis before the top of the third.

Mike Gonzalez, the Pirates’ seventh pitcher, got two outs for his second save. He struck out pinch-hitter Reggie Sanders and retired So Taguchi on a grounder with runners at second and third for Pittsburgh’s first save in 28 games. Ryan Vogelsong (2-1) allowed a run in 2 1-3 innings.

Bay hit his 29th homer in the first, and Eldred’s first homer made it 2-0. Bay’s RBI double made it 3-1 in the fifth.

Diaz’s RBI double came in the fourth. Leadoff walks issued by John Grabow to David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek in the seventh helped the Cardinals cut the gap to one on Albert Pujols’ run-scoring groundout and John Gall’s sacrifice fly to the left-field wall, both off Jose Mesa.

Tike Redman’s RBI double in the ninth off Julian Tavarez put the Pirates ahead 5-3.

Marquis lasted six innings and gave up four runs, three earned, and eight hits. He won his previous three starts, two of them complete games.

Notes: The Cardinals received approval from Major League Baseball to begin selling tickets for the postseason on Sept. 19. … Hall of Famer Stan Musial participated in the Busch Stadium countdown, removing his uniform No. 6 from the right-field wall. … Bay scored his 100th run, become the first Pirates player to reach the century mark since Brian Giles in 2001. … Grudzielanek returned to the Cardinals’ lineup after missing seven games with a lower back injury and was 2-for-4 with a walk. … A paid crowd of 40,172 was the Cardinals’ 37th straight of 40,000 or more.

AP-ES-09-14-05 1729EDT


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