Right-hander Braden Looper, the starter, gave up seven runs in four innings, including a grand slam in a five-run Pittsburgh first.
Left-hander Mike Maroth, who had been in the rotation, was roughed up for seven runs in the eighth inning in his first -- and perhaps his last -- relief outing for the club.
Altogether, the Cardinals gave up 20 hits and 15 runs in their worst thumping of the season. It was the 35th time in 53 losses that the Cardinals had lost by four or more runs.
Looper being drilled by the Pirates was out of character, considering his first two starts against Pittsburgh this season. He had given up only one run in 13 innings over two games, both victories.
But Looper's bad start was in character with his pattern of general inconsistency. In his previous start, he had given up one run in seven innings to the Cubs. But in the start before that, he allowed 10 hits and seven runs in 2 2/3 innings. His ERA in his eight wins is 1.38. His ERA in his nine losses is over 10.
"Basically, when I've been bad, I've been bad," Looper said. "I didn't give us a chance. I was terrible.
"Every pitch was up. My front shoulder was flying open. I've shown I can do it. I just need to do it more consistently."
Looper is in his first season as a starter, and the theory is that he has hit the wall, with many more innings pitched than he had ever had before.
But manager Tony La Russa said the matter was more of concentration instead of Looper having a "dead arm."
"He's got do a better of job of zeroing in," La Russa said. La Russa had suggested the other day that Looper might wind up back in the bullpen next season. That, of course, would require the Cardinals to bring in at least two more starters.
PIRATES 15, CARDINALS 1: The Cardinals lost for the first time in five games at PNC Park this year as Braden Looper retired the first two hitters in the first inning and then gave up five runs before the inning was over.
Aaron Miles accounted for the only Cardinals run with his first homer of the season. Again, the Cardinals had trouble with a less than distinguished pitching opponent. Pirates right-hander Tony Armas was 0-3 with a 6.93 ERA before Wednesday, when he gave up just one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--OF Skip Schumaker, who hit .435 in July, nonetheless was sent to Class AAA Memphis to make room for RHP Joel Pineiro, acquired from Boston and who will start for the Cardinals on Saturday. Schumaker, hitting .304, will have to fly to Tacoma, Wash., to join his new Memphis team.
--RHP Anthony Reyes, who saved his roster spot, at least temporarily, with a strong effort Saturday, will start Thursday afternoon's game for the Cardinals.
--LHP Tyler Johnson (biceps tendinitis), about to wrap up a rehabilitation option in the minors, should rejoin the major league club in the next few days.
--LHP Mike Maroth, hammered in six consecutive appearances, including giving up nine hits and seven runs in 1 2/3 innings Wednesday, is likely to be deleted from the roster in one form or another. Manager Tony La Russa said Maroth has been tipping his pitches. "We're calling them from the bench," La Russa said.
--LHP Mark Mulder, out all season after rotator cuff surgery last September, is facing hitters at the Cardinals' spring training facility in Jupiter, Fla., and will do so a few more times before he begins a rehab assignment.