Ponson had his second consecutive poor start. He was up in the strike zone all night, especially to Pittsburgh pitcher Zach Duke, whom he allowed to stroke two singles good for three runs.
Ponson has given up 15 hits and 11 runs over just 8 2/3 innings in his past two games, both losses, after he had won his first four decisions as a Cardinal.
Thompson was little better, surrendering a three-run homer to Pittsburgh's Jose Castillo in the fifth inning.
La Russa called for a suicide squeeze in the second that failed when Aaron Miles popped up a bunt and Hector Luna was doubled off third. La Russa tried a hit-and-run with the slow-moving Ponson running and David Eckstein hitting in the third. But Eckstein couldn't get a bat on a pitch well inside, and Ponson tagged out at second as he didn't slide.
Another hit-and-run went awry in the eighth when Yadier Molina popped up and Luna was tardy in getting back to first base. And Juan Encarnacion was thrown out trying to steal third as Luna fanned in the fifth.
REPLAY: Scott Rolen continued to do much of the hitting for the Cardinals, singling, doubling and smacking a two-run homer. He scored three runs and drove in three, and Juan Encarnacion had three hits and drove in two runs.
But after the Cardinals had surged to a 5-3 lead over the Pirates in the third inning, Sidney Ponson allowed four hits and Brad Thompson one in a three-run fourth that gave the Pirates the lead for good. Pittsburgh went on to post a 9-7 victory.
--3B Scott Rolen is 16-for-32 (.500) over his last nine games with 12 RBIs after going 3-for-5 Wednesday. He has taken over the National League batting lead at .358.
--RF Juan Encarnacion is at a season-high .269 after a 3-for-5 night. --OF Rick Ankiel, who hurt his left knee on Feb. 27 and hasn't played all season, is now out for the year after undergoing knee surgery. The Cardinals may not protect the former pitcher on the 40-man roster this winter.
--INF Hector Luna made his first start at first base this season and went 3-for-4.
--LHP Tyler Johnson retired two more left-handed batters. He has given up only one hit to a left-handed hitter in 22 at-bats this season.