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Matt Carpenter's walk-off homer sinks Pirates in 6-4 loss

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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates fought their way to a 4-4 tie against the Cardinals in the ninth inning Saturday, but A.J. Schugel allowed a walk-off two-run homer to Matt Carpenter in the bottom of the ninth to give the Cards a 6-4 victory.

The Bucs scored two quick runs in the first, but the Cardinals quickly added two of their own as Jeff Locke fought through a rough first inning. Carpenter led off with a double, and then Locke walked the next two batters. Randal Grichuk brought home two with a single, although Locke avoided further damage, with the Cardinals giving him a bit of a gift when Yadier Molina bunted into a force out.

Locke fared better after that rough first inning, although he allowed a leadoff homer to Stephen Piscotty in the third to put the Cardinals up 3-2. The Bucs went down quietly against Adam Wainwright for several innings after that, but finally managed to tie it in the seventh. Josh Harrison led off with a double and moved to third on Jordy Mercer's sacrifice. He was erased on Matt Joyce's fielder's choice, but Joyce moved to second on the play and then came home on John Jaso's single.

Neftali Feliz relieved Locke and pitched a clean seventh, but the Cardinals re-took the lead in the eighth as Jared Hughes gave up a double to Piscotty and then a ground-ball single to Randal Grichuk.

The Bucs' chances looked bleak heading into the ninth, but David Freese -- who received a warm welcome in his return to St. Louis -- got them started by reaching on Aledmys Diaz's error. Freese came around to score later in the inning on Starling Marte's game-tying ground-rule double, which might have been more than that had the ball not bounced over the fence. Polanco, who'd reached on a force-out earlier in the inning, got held at third and was stranded there when Francisco Cervelli grounded out.

Schugel then entered in the ninth. Schugel has quietly pitched pretty well this season, but I don't know why Clint Hurdle didn't go with Mark Melancon or Tony Watson, neither of whom have been overworked lately. I suppose the idea was to have Schugel face the bottom of the Cardinals' lineup, but Diaz and Carpenter have both hit very well this year. In any case, the gambit didn't work. Schugel gave up a ground-ball single to Diaz, then hung a changeup for Carpenter, who took him deep to end the game.