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Cardinals struggle without Molina, lose 9-1 to Pirates

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ST. LOUIS - Life without All-Star catcher Yadier Molina did not start out well for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, behind a six-hit complete-game performance from Edinson Volquez, beat the Cardinals 9-1 to avoid being swept in the four-game series.

Molina tore a ligament in his right thumb in Wednesday's 5-2 win. He will undergo surgery on Friday and is expected to be out 8 to 12 weeks.

The Cardinals, who outscored the Pirates 12-6 in winning the first three games of the series, were flat from the outset.

"We just didn't look right from the beginning," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was a tough night for our club in general."

The team got the news about Molina three hours before the game.

"He's a hard guy to replace," infielder Matt Carpenter said. "But we're not going to hang our heads. We've got to move forward."

Matheny said his club is capable of overcoming the loss.

"It's not the first time that we've gotten kicked a little bit," he said. "Injuries are just part of the game. We've got to play through it."

Volquez won win his fourth straight start for the first time in his 10-year career.

Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Russell Martin and Andrew McCutchen all drove in two runs for Pittsburgh.

Volquez (8-6) has a 4-0 record and a 0.90 ERA in his last four starts. He struck out five and walked two in recording the second complete-game win of his career.

He allowed just one hit as a member of the San Diego Padres in beating Houston 1-0 on July 19, 2012.

"He used his breaking ball effectively and he got outs when he needed them," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's about throwing strikes and changing speeds. It was a real good effort."

Volquez seemed to get better as the game went along. He needed a season-high 114 pitches to give the Pirates their first complete game of the season.

"He had command of all of his pitches," Carpenter said. "We just weren't able to get anything going."

Volquez allowed the leadoff batter to reach base in each of the first four innings. He then gave up just two hits over the final five.

"When he gets past the fifth, he smells the finish," Hurdle said.

Shelby Miller (7-8) allowed four runs in five innings. He walked four and struck out one.

Miller appeared to struggle without Molina behind the plate.

"Obviously, it's a big loss," Miller said. "He's the best catcher in the game, hands down."

Walker extended his hitting streak to a season-high 12 games with a two-run double in the fifth that extended the Pirates lead to 4-1. McCutchen started the three-run uprising with a run-scoring single that broke a 1-all tie.

McCutchen drove in a run in the sixth with a sacrifice fly. Harrison added a two-run double in the inning that made it 6-1.

Martin homered off Jason Motte in the ninth. Martin drove in his 500th career run in the first inning.

The Pirates had been held to six runs in losing the first three games of the series. They were a combined 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position in those defeats.

On Thursday, they came up with several key hits in going 4 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

"We took advantage of some mistakes and some opportunities and we were able to play our game," Walker said.

St. Louis tied it in the third on a sacrifice fly by Carpenter. Kolten Wong began the inning with a single.

Miller lost his third straight decision.

"I didn't do a good job of getting ahead in the count," he said. "I ended up walking guys and they took advantage of the situation."

NOTES: St. Louis OF Allen Craig, mired in an 0-for-13 skid did not play Thursday. ...The Cardinals open a three-game series in Milwaukee on Friday. Joe Kelly (1-1, 0.59) will face Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 3.45) in the first game. Kelly is making his first appearance since straining his left hamstring on April 16. ... Pittsburgh will travel to Cincinnati for a three-game series beginning Friday. LHP Jeff Locke (2-1, 3.08) will face Mat Latos (2-1, 2.41) in the opener. ... St. Louis C Tony Cruz, who is replacing Molina, allowed a passed ball in the sixth that brought in a run. ...There are just three teams without a complete game this season — Kansas City, Colorado and the Chicago Cubs.

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