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Cardinals go cold at plate, drop third in a row

Offense struggles to get going vs. rookie Kingham in loss to Pirates
Special to MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- For five innings, Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver, while not quite perfect, was good enough Sunday at PNC Park.

Weaver yielded three hits and walked one, matching zeros with Pirates right-hander Nick Kingham, who was flirting with a perfect game in his first Major League outing.

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PITTSBURGH -- For five innings, Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver, while not quite perfect, was good enough Sunday at PNC Park.

Weaver yielded three hits and walked one, matching zeros with Pirates right-hander Nick Kingham, who was flirting with a perfect game in his first Major League outing.

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Kingham would lose the bid when Paul DeJong singled with two outs in the seventh. It was a remarkable effort that propelled the Pirates to a 5-0 win and a three-game series sweep that left the Bucs in first place in the NL Central while St. Louis dropped to third, 1 1/2 games back.

Video: STL@PIT: DeJong's single ends Kingham's perfect game

Weaver's fortunes, meanwhile, changed in the sixth. With one out, a pair of singles, neither especially hard hit, brought pitching coach Mike Maddux out for a visit. Weaver then walked Corey Dickerson, loading the bases for Elias Diaz.

Diaz hit an opposite-field single, driving in the first two runs of the game. That would be more than enough for Kingham and the Pirates, but the Bucs added two more runs in the inning after Jordan Hicks relieved Weaver.

"Luke was good," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Very good. He established early on that breaking ball, right there in the first inning. I thought the changeup was there as he went deeper into the game. Did everything we needed him to do. It was just unfortunate in the sixth, an infield single, bloop single, we're in trouble there."

Video: STL@PIT: Weaver gets Frazier swinging in the 1st

Cardinals right-hander Greg Holland, stepping out of his closing role, pitched the eighth and yielded three singles for the fifth Pirates run. It was an unimpressive follow-up for Holland, the victim of Friday's three-run uprising in the ninth that led to an extra-innings win for the Pirates.

Expected by many to have a breakout season, Weaver pitched to a 2.08 ERA in his first three starts. His next two outings were poor, resulting in 10 runs allowed in 8 2/3 innings. This one was better, but he still was charged with four runs in 5 1/3 innings, inflating his ERA to 5.17.

Weaver said he felt more like he did early in the season.

Video: STL@PIT: Gyorko gets heads-up out at home

"This felt like attacking, aggressive, getting strikes when I needed to, making them feel like they're on their heels," he said. "Today was one of those days where they found some holes. You just gotta shake it off."

Asked about Kingham, Matheny said, "He had sink, the ball was cutting, wasn't making a lot of mistakes in the middle of the plate. He was throwing two different sliders. That's enough to keep an offense off him. He didn't make too many mistakes. He was impressive."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Weaver was sailing along until the Pirates scratched out a couple of singles and Dickerson walked in the sixth, bringing up Diaz. Weaver threw the pitch he wanted -- a curve -- where he wanted -- down and away. Diaz knew what to do, shooting the pitch to right field, the opposite field, giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead.

Video: STL@PIT: Diaz drives in two with a single to right

"I executed that pitch, right there on the corner, just off," Weaver said. "It was one of those swings where it stinks to see, but for him it was a great job of hitting. You can go out of the game knowing you well-executed a pitch."

HE SAID IT
"I saw a couple of different breaking balls from him, more of sweeper, more of straight-down kind of curve ball. He had a good mix of both of them. He didn't make too many mistakes. ... He really kept us off-balance. He wasn't falling into too many patterns." -- Paul DeJong, whose seventh-inning single with two out ended Nick Kingham's perfect game

UP NEXT
Following a much-needed off-day Monday on the heels of their sweep at the hands of the Pirates, the Cardinals return home Tuesday to face the Chicago White Sox (7:15 p.m. CT). Right-hander Michael Wacha (4-1, 3.62 ERA ) is scheduled to start for St. Louis against righty James Shields (1-3, 6.14). Wacha has won four straight starts since losing to the Mets on March 31.

Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals