The Pirates called up Daniel McCutchen from Triple-A to make the start, and he finished 5 2/3 innings in what is now his third stint with the club. The outing wasn't all bad for McCutchen, though his hesitancy to give in to select Cardinals hitters fostered some command issues.
"I pitched a little different tonight than I usually do," said McCutchen, who walked a career-high six batters. "Tonight, I tried to not live in the middle of the plate and tried not to give them anything that they could really hit a long ways. On the bad side of that, I walked a lot more guys than I should have."
Two of those walks scored, though in both instances McCutchen was hurt by his defense. With a runner on first and one out in the second, Lastings Milledge lost a ball in the sky that ended up dropping a few feet in front of him.
McCutchen walked the next hitter before Suppan lined a single just past a drawn-in Garrett Jones to drive in the game's first run. Two innings later, Jones' errant throw to second allowed another run to score.
Still, to his credit, McCutchen didn't let either frame snowball into a big inning. And both surely had the potential.
"I thought he battled," manager John Russell said. "It wasn't sharp, sharp, sharp, but I think he gave it everything. You could tell he was competing and getting after it."
The early two-run deficit grew by one when Albert Pujols launched his 24th homer of the year off McCutchen in the fifth. After two more hits, a run and one more walk in the sixth, Russell was forced to pull McCutchen from his seventh start of the season.
The exit marked the sixth time that McCutchen was unable to finish six innings. Still, he saw his ability to limit the Cardinals to three earned runs as a step in the right direction. To his credit, McCutchen handed the Pirates a deep-enough start to get by with just five relievers in the 'pen.
"It was battle, battle, battle," McCutchen said. "A few things didn't go my way, but I tried to keep us in the ballgame."
The night got worse for Pittsburgh upon McCutchen's departure. Limited in bullpen options and devoid of some of its more reliable arms after three trades earlier in the day, the bullpen gave up seven runs on nine hits in two innings. The group is not expected to struggle to that extent for the rest of the season, but there's no question that the bullpen is no longer the club's strength.
Steven Jackson allowed a pair of seventh-inning runs, while Wil Ledezma retired only one of the six hitters he faced in the eighth. Ledezma, making his second appearance since being called up, was charged with five runs. Sean Gallagher finally ended the inning, but not before allowing three more runners to reach.
The bullpen's implosion had no effect on the outcome, though, as Suppan's early dominance set the tone for a quiet offensive night for Pittsburgh.
"I was, from the beginning, working hard on what I needed to improve on, and tonight I was able to execute my pitches," Suppan said. "I got some outs with the slider, and then some swings and misses with the changeup."
Despite coming in winless and with a 6.18 ERA in 22 games (nine starts), Suppan pitched 5 1/3 scoreless frames to collect his first victory since Sept. 19, 2009. Aided by an overly aggressive Pittsburgh offense, the right-hander struck out a season-high five.
"We got jumpy and really didn't be as patient as we probably could," Russell said. "We tried to make things happen, which is a sign of a young team. They wanted to get aggressive against him out there. He's a veteran pitcher, saw that and threw a lot of offspeed to us."
The top of the Pirates' batting order tried to muster something in the first and third but came up empty both times.
In the first, Neil Walker's baserunning blunder -- though the Pirates contended afterward that it really wasn't -- cost the Pirates a chance to further a run-scoring opportunity. When catcher Yadier Molina dropped Jones' popup near the foul line, Walker took off for second, not realizing that that the umpire had apparently signaled for the infield-fly rule.
Jose Tabata advanced to third on the dropped ball, but the inning ended when Walker was tagged out for advancing. Russell argued at length with home plate umpire Tim McClelland about the call, but it stood.
"I didn't really understand it," Russell said. "He tried to explain, and I still didn't understand it. [I'm] told not to make comments about the umpires in the papers, so we'll leave it at that."
Tabata and Andrew McCutchen both finished with multi-hit games, though the only run scored was produced by Jeff Clement. Pinch-hitting in the eighth, Clement drove a fastball over the center-field wall to prevent the Pirates from being shut out in consecutive games for the third time this season.
Clement had been called up prior to the game after spending the last seven weeks working on his swing with Triple-A Indianapolis.
"I took it as an opportunity to play every day, take at-bats every day and make adjustments and get some confidence back," he said of the demotion. "I was able to do that down there."
With the loss, the Pirates finished July with a 9-16 record.