Crushed by Cardinals at home, Pirates losing touch with playoff pursuit

Andrew McCutchen braces himself for the wall on Adam Wainwright's second-inning double. - MATT SUNDAY

Not like a blowout Cardinals win has never happened in the history of PNC Park. In this context, though, it was still jarring.

On Monday afternoon, in the first game of a pivotal September series, St. Louis plastered the Pirates 12-6, with both Chad Kuhl and Jeff Locke absorbing roundhouse kicks on the mound.

The Pirates' seventh consecutive loss dropped them below .500 for the first time since July 2. At 67-68, they have a losing record at this point in the season for the first time in five years. More importantly, they're now 4 1/2 games behind the Cardinals for the National League's second wild card position.

"We're just trying to figure ourselves out, get out of this and get back to playing the baseball we know how to play," Jordy Mercer said.

Kuhl staggered through two innings in the shortest start of his short major-league career, giving up three runs on four hits (three doubles) and three walks. Locke fared even worse in relief, getting strafed for seven over three innings. Jedd Gyorko and Matt Adams hit homers off Locke, who was also betrayed by errors from Josh Bell and David Freese.

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