ST. LOUIS (AP) — Kolten Wong has a flair for the dramatic.
Wong led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a home run off Richard Rodriguez, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
“You see guys that in those big situations tend to have the ability to get it done,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “You really don’t want guys going up there thinking home run because that normally ends up a pop up on the infield, but whatever Kolten’s doing I’m not going to get in the way. If he’s thinking home run, keep thinking it in those situations.”
Austin Meadows had tied the score in the top half with a home run off Bud Norris (2-1), who blew a save for the first time in 12 chances.
Wong homered on a slider from Rodriguez (1-2), his second game-ending homer this season and the fourth of his big league career. Pittsburgh lost for the sixth time in eight games and has lost four of its last five games against the Cardinals.
It was Wong’s first homer since May 18 and fourth this season.
“He’s got such quick hands, he necessarily doesn’t have to cheat,” Matheny said. “It’s when he’s timed up and he timed everything up there and the ball jumped for him.”
Marcell Ozuna homered in the second, the 100th of his career and first in 105 plate appearances at Busch Stadium with the Cardinals. Colin Moran tied the score in the fifth with his first home run since May 22, connecting on a changeup from Luke Weaver.
Tommy Pham, in a 3-for-41 slide, put the Cardinals back ahead with an RBI single in the bottom half.
Weaver needed 90 pitches to get through five innings, allowing four hits.
Pirates starter Chad Kuhl gave up four hits in six innings.
“We’ve had some good swings,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve had some battles in the box, done some good base running, made some good defensive plays. I think the big picture is this team likes to fight and they like to play. They bounce back well.”
Austin Gomber, a 24-year-old left-hander, pitched three scoreless innings for St. Louis in his major league debut. A fourth-round draft pick in 2014, he replaced Weaver and walked Meadows, struck out Starling Marte and got Josh Bell to ground into a double play. Gomber retired his next six batters in order.
“I was just taking it batter by batter, just enjoying the moment, taking it in and trying to do my best,” Gomber said.
Gomber gave a boost to an overworked bullpen.
“We had a few guys down that we couldn’t go to today,” Matheny said. “It was a tough call bringing Luke out early. Fortunately, Austin came in and really was impressive.”
Pirates: INF Jung Ho Kang (restricted list) began a minor league assignment with Class A Bradenton on Friday and went 0 for 3 with a pair of walks and a run scored.
Cardinals: C Yadier Molina (pelvic surgery) was to start a rehab assignment at Double-A Springfield on Saturday night.
Cardinals RHP Michael Wacha (6-1, 2.71 ERA) and Pirates RHP Nick Kingham (2-1, 3.75 ERA) are to start Sunday’s series finale. Wacha gave up a season-low two hits against Milwaukee on Tuesday and has held opponents to two runs or fewer in eight straight starts. Kingham made his major league debut against St. Louis on April 20, retiring his first 20 batters before Paul DeJong’s single.