ST. LOUIS (AP) — After dropping their third straight to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates did not believe the sky was falling.
Catcher Russell Martin said the Pirates aren't playing poorly, they're just running into a team that's suddenly gotten hot.
"The Cardinals are just playing a little better this series," Martin said after a 5-2 loss on Wednesday night. "They're getting some timely hits and that's all it boils down to.
"You don't need to dissect it more than that."
The NL Central is getting tight heading into the All-Star break with the Milwaukee Brewers leading the Cardinals by two games and the fourth-place Pirates are just 4½ games back.
"We know we're going to contend all the way through and we're going to fight all the way through. None of that's going to change," Martin said. "It's always nice to rattle off some wins before the All-Star break, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't matter."
Lance Lynn reached double figures in wins before the All-Star break for the third straight year and Kolten Wong homered for the second straight game for the Cardinals.
Matt Adams had three hits and two RBIs for the Cardinals, who will go for a four-game sweep over the division rival they beat in the postseason last fall on Thursday, although they might have to do it without All-Star catcher Yadier Molina.
Molina was removed for a pinch-hitter in the third inning with a sprained right thumb from sliding into third base and will be re-evaluated before the finale. He caught another half-inning before leaving the game.
Neil Walker homered and doubled for Pittsburgh, which had won 12 of 15 entering the series and dropped the first two on game-winning, ninth-inning homers by Adams and Wong.
Rookie Brandon Cumpton (3-3) started in place of injured Gerrit Cole and was charged with four runs and nine hits in 3 1-3 innings.
"I was just falling behind and not executing pitches well at all," Cumpton said. "I was just missing up with stuff."
Lynn (10-6) allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings and has 32 wins before the All-Star break his first three seasons in the rotation. The right-hander is tied for most pre-All-Star wins with Detroit's Max Scherzer over that stretch and is the first Cardinals pitcher to do it in three straight seasons since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson totaled 34 wins from 1968-70.
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