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Richie Palacios has 3 hits as the Cardinals beat the Pirates to avoid a sweep

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Richie Palacios had a career-best three hits and drove in two runs, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4 on Wednesday to avoid a three-game sweep.

Palacios capped a three-run first inning with a two-run double, singled in his next two at-bats and walked in the ninth. The 26-year-old had his first three-hit performance in 61 major league games.

“He’s under control,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “Takes really nice swings. The ball has been coming off his bat well. Knows the strike zone. Makes a lot of contact. It’s a good combination of skills.”

The last-place Cardinals had lost six of seven and were outscored 17-4 in the first two games of the series.

Zack Thompson (3-5) gave up two runs on six hits with five strikeouts in five innings. His outing was ended by a 92-minute rain delay with two outs in the top of the sixth.

“You go through ups and downs in the season, I think the easiest way to stabilize that is to just be the same guy every day,” Thompson said. “I'm at my best when I'm playing for the guys behind me and just attacking every pitch.”

JoJo Romero struck out three in the final two innings for his third save, allowing an RBI double from Connor Joe with two outs in the ninth.

Pirates starter Luis Ortiz (2-4) lasted just 3 1/3 innings, surrendering five runs on seven hits and five walks.

“I think the stuff was there. The command wasn’t,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “I think it was more execution than it was stuff.”

The Cardinals went ahead 3-0 in the first thanks to three hits and three walks. Alec Burleson got on with a bunt single and scored on Paul Goldschmidt’s single to right-center. After Nolan Arenado and Willson Contreras walked, Palacios doubled to right.

“You always want to put up runs early for whoever the starter is,” Palacios said. “It helps them. It helps the team. You’re always trying to get runs early.”

Arenado put St. Louis up 5-0 with a two-run double to left after Ortiz walked two more in the second.

Thompson hit Joe with the bases loaded in the third, cutting the lead to four runs.

Ke’Bryan Hayes made it 5-2 with a solo homer in the fifth, belting a fastball from Thompson 392 feet to right-center for his ninth of the season.

Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen, who has 299 career homers, had three doubles for the first time in the majors but was stranded at second after each.

“I’d have thought I’d have done it before,” McCutchen said. “It’s always nice to get an extra-base hit. I’m sure a lot of people are disappointed today because I didn’t hit a homer. But I’m pleased with my game, personally. I would’ve liked to cap it off by hitting another one, but it didn’t work out that way.”

BROTHER VS. BROTHER

Joshua Palacios, Richie’s older brother, had five RBIs for Pittsburgh in the series opener Monday. Richie Palacios answered with his first homer in the majors on Tuesday.

“It was like a dream come true,” Richie Palacios said. “This is what we dreamed of, as a family. It's pretty sick to be able to truly experience it.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: SS Oneil Cruz is no longer running due to left foot general soreness and his rehab from a fractured left fibula has “plateaued,” Pittsburgh director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. ... RHP Dauri Moreta was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis as a corresponding move to Ortiz being recalled from the taxi squad.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas (6-9, 4.55 ERA) is in line to start Friday's opener of a three-game series at Philadelphia.

Pirates: Have not announced a starter for Thursday's opener of a four-game series against the visiting Chicago Cubs.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb