ST. LOUIS - Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle thinks the Pirates may benefit from a day off.
Peter Bourjos singled home the winning run in the ninth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat Pittsburgh 1-0 Wednesday to stretch their winning streak to five.
The three-game sweep dropped the third-place Pirates five games back in the NL Central. Pittsburgh has lost 10 of its last 12 road games, falling to a major league-worst 17-29 away from home in day games.
"They were just a little bit better than us every game," Hurdle said. "It was a great series. It was nip and tuck and push and shove and tug of war every time we play them.
"I mean, we're playing competitive baseball. We've got to find a way to score a run every now and then when we're out there and have some shutdown innings. We're not going to back down. We'll take the day off. We're going to catch our breath and try and set some stakes down in Chicago."
The Pirates' Edinson Volquez gave up three hits and two walks in 6 1-3 innings before Hurdle turned the game over to Tony Watson and Mark Melancon.
Next up: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs, Friday, 2:20 p.m.
TV: ROOT; WGN
Note: The Pirates trail the first-place Cardinals by 5 games, and are behind the Giants and Brewers for the two wild car spots.
"I wanted the best two guys in our bullpen to finish off the game," Hurdle said.
But it didn't work out.
Yadier Molina walked with two outs in the ninth on a 3-2 pitch from Melancon (2-4), who had entered an inning earlier. Molina advanced to second on John Jay's single and scored on the hit by Bourjos, easily beating the throw home from center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
St. Louis moved into sole possession of the NL Central lead for the first time Monday and extended its lead to 2 1/2 games.
Trevor Rosenthal (2-6) pitched a one-hit ninth. Pinch-hitter Gregory Polanco drew an 11-pitch walk leading off the eighth against Carlos Martinez, who retired the next three batters.
St. Louis starter Shelby Miller allowed three hits and three walks in seven innings.
Plate home umpire Ron Kulpa issued a warning to both benches in the fifth inning after Miller threw a high fastball that sailed behind McCutchen. In the fourth, Volquez had hit Matt Holliday and Matt Adams back to back.
Hurdle did not like what he saw.
"From my perspective, it was an ambush," Hurdle said about Miller throwing at McCutchen. "It was a cheap shot. Ron's got to make the call he makes and that's what he chose to make."
McCutchen understand what was going on. He didn't take it personally.
"He missed me," McCuthen said. "So, no harm done. They had their shot and they missed me so we move on from there. They had their shot. They had their chance and they got warned."
Kulpa was behind the plate earlier this season when McCutchen was hit in early August in Arizona.
"It was the same dude. I said 'Why does it have to be you again behind the plate?" McCuthen said about Kulpa umpiring. "He kind of laughed it off."
NOT RUNNING WILD
Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin threw out Jay attempting to steal third in the eighth. Martin has throw out runners attempting to steal in four straight games and leads the NL with 25 runners caught stealing - four short of his league-high total last year.
Pirates: Infielder Pedro Alverez (left foot) sat out for the seventh consecutive game. Alverez left the Aug. 26 game against St. Louis in the seventh inning when he hurt the foot diving for a grounder down the first-base line.
Cardinals: Kolten Wong was back in the starting lineup at second base after a two-day absence.
Pirates: RHP Vance Worley (6-4, 3.01) starts Friday at the Chicago Cubs. He had lost three straight starts before beating Cincinnati 3-2 last Saturday.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (5-3, 2.79) starts Thursday at Milwaukee in his first big league appearance since June 17. Wacha missed 67 games because of a stress reaction in his right shoulder. He allowed one hit during two scoreless innings Sunday in an injury rehabilitation outing at Tulsa of the Double-A Texas League.