But Mulder's location bedeviled him, especially in the fourth inning, when he allowed a three-run homer to Ronny Paulino that would curtail Mulder's work for the evening. In four innings, he gave up eight hits and six runs, although he threw 12 first-pitch strikes to the 19 hitters he faced.
While Mulder wasn't satisfied, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, "I saw quite a few things I liked," although he wasn't specific about any of them.
If the Cardinals stay with the six-man September rotation that La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan have mapped out, Mulder's next start will come in the home-run haven of Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati next Tuesday.
Mulder's loss to the Pirates Wednesday, which knocked the Cardinals two games off the pace of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central Division, was Mulder's first in seven career decisions against Pittsburgh.
PIRATES 8, CARDINALS 2: The Cardinals continue to make Hall of Famers out of Pittsburgh's Ronny Paulino and Jack Wilson, the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters in the Pirates lineup. Paulino had two hits, including a three-run homer, and former Cardinals farmhand Wilson had three, giving the pair 17 hits in 24 at-bats in the first three games of this series. Right fielder Rick Ankiel hit his seventh homer, sixth at home, for the Cardinals' only two runs.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--OF Rick Ankiel's seven homers in less than a month are one shy of 3B Scott Rolen's total for the season and two fewer than CF Jim Edmonds'.
--LF Chris Duncan fanned three more times, giving him 27 (against only 10 hits) in his last 68 at-bats.
--LHP Mike Maroth (elbow tendinitis) was removed from the disabled list and will start Thursday afternoon's game, with RHPs Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper lined up for the first two games of a weekend series at Arizona. The starter for the final game of the series is still undetermined, said manager Tony La Russa. It probably won't be Kip Wells (6-16).
--When 3B Russell Branyan homered on Tuesday night, he became the first player to homer for three teams (San Diego, Philadelphia, Cardinals) this year. Last year, both Phil Nevin and Matt Stairs accomplished the feat.
--The Cardinals have 33 active players now, with the possibility that INF/OF Scott Spiezio could be pulled off the restricted list before the end of the season if he has completed his rehabilitation for substance abuse.
La Russa said he hoped Spiezio would be back, at least in some sort of limited basis. "I wouldn't hesitate to use him," said La Russa of Spiezio, who has a good on-base percentage of .360.