- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis right-hander Carlos Martinez takes pride in his hitting.

It showed on Monday in a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Martinez had two hits and extended his hitting streak to four games with singles in the third and fifth innings.

“I want to let my teammates know that I can put the ball in play too,” Martinez said, “That they can rely on me to get a hit.”

Martinez went 2 for 2 to push his average to .290 - better than five of the eight position players in the lineup on Monday.

“It’s nice to have a guy up there swing it well,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “It makes it an option for us.”

Martinez played a key role in a fifth-inning run with a one-out single that put two runners on and led to Matt Carpenter’s RBI double for a 1-0 lead.

“It feels good to be able to contribute to my team in that way,” Martinez said.

Martinez (7-6) threw well on the mound as well. He allowed three runs on nine hits over seven innings and recorded his seventh successive quality start. Martinez sailed through the first four innings giving up one hit on 47 pitches.

“I felt good,” Martinez said. “I just tried to stay concentrated all the way through.”

Pittsburgh outfielder Gregory Polanco hit two home runs and drove in three runs to lead the Pirates to their fifth successive win, all on the road.

Left-hander Jonathon Niese (7-6) turned in his strongest performance in almost a month for Pittsburgh.

St. Louis had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Polanco’s two-run homer in the sixth off Carlos Martinez (7-6) put the Pirates ahead to stay 2-1. He added a solo shot in the eighth for the first two-homer game of his career.

“Hitting and swinging, I don’t feel it at all, it doesn’t bother me,” Polanco said. “I’m grateful for that. And I’m glad it’s getting better.”

Polanco struggled running to first on a ground ball in the opening inning. But he had little trouble leisurely trotting around the bases twice.

“He’s continuing to be a force in the lineup,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “A real strong performance.”

Niese (7-6) allowed just one run on seven hits over 5 2-3 innings. He struck out three and walked one. Niese had given up at least four earned runs in each of his last four starts including surrendering eight earned runs in an 8-3 loss to St. Louis at home on June 12.

“You can’t dwell on the past games, they’re over with,” Niese said. “So, I just focused on what’s ahead. I use my sinker more, cutter less. I was able to keep them honest.”

Relievers Arquimedes Caminero, Juan Nicasio and Neftali Feliz combined to allow one run over the final 3 1-3 innings. Feliz picked up his first save of the season despite giving up a run-scoring double to Matt Carpenter in the ninth. Feliz retired Matt Holliday on a fly out with two runners on to end the game.

The Cardinals went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.

“Guys had a good plan, they had an idea of what they wanted to do,” Matheny said. “We just couldn’t get that big hit. We left a little too much on the table.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: C Chris Stewart was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left knee discomfort. C Eric Fryer, claimed on waivers from St. Louis on Sunday, was activated for Monday’s game. RHP Rob Scahill was designated for assignment.

Cardinals: OF Tommy Pham was scratched from the starting lineup minutes before the game with right shoulder stiffness. LHP Kevin Siegrist remains on the 15-day disabled list due to mononucleosis. He is expected to be out until after the All-Star break.

UP NEXT

RHP Mike Leake (5-6, 4.13) will take on LHP Steven Brault (0-0, 0.00), who will be called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, in the second game of the four-game series on Tuesday. Brault is replacing Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.86), who was placed on the 15-day disabled list after Monday’s game with right shoulder fatigue.

“We’re just going to back away (with him) right now,” Hurdle said.

Brault was 2-3 with a 2.31 ERA in nine starts between Indianapolis and Class A West Virginia.

REHABBING

The Pirates also announced that RHP Gerrit Cole will make a rehab start on Tuesday in Indianapolis against Louisville. Cole was placed on the disabled list on June 14 with a strained right triceps. In addition, RHP Ryan Vogelsong will toss a 60-pitch/four inning simulated game on Tuesday. … C Francisco Cervelli will catch the session. Vogelsong was placed on the disabled list May 23 after he was hit by a line drive against Colorado. Cervelli has been on the DL since mid-June with a broken bone in his left hand.

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