"He's back to the Francisco Cordova we're used to," Pirates manager Gene Lamont said. "Just like hitting, starting pitching can be contagious and we're getting all of our guys together. I've said all season we could put a real hot streak together, and we're finally pitching like we're capable of."
Cordova has allowed two runs or fewer in all but one of his last six starts, including a five-hit complete game victory Sunday over Florida.
The Pirates' starting pitchers have a 1.98 during a stretch of seven victories in 11 games.
"This is the best baseball we've played all season," said Mike Williams, who got the final four outs for his 17th save. "The starting pitching is the key."
McGwire never did figure out Cordova, striking out twice on breaking pitches in his first two-bats before flying out in the sixth and hitting a single to left in the eighth.
McGwire is 1-for-8 with three strikeouts so far in the four-game series after hitting nine homers in 11 games and 17 in 21 games, including careehomers No. 500 and 501 Thursday night against San Diego.
The Cardinals threatened in the eighth after Ray Lankford followed McGwire's single with his second double and third hit of the game. But Cordova struck out Fernando Tatis looking before Williams relieved and struck out Thomas Howard swinging.
"Cordova did a great job, no question," Tatis said. "Nothing was for a strike, not even a fastball. He got his pitches where he wanted them. He didn't make a mistake."
The Pirates' final two runs followed intentional walks by Bottenfield.
Bottenfield (15-5) allowed 11 hits over 7 2-3 innings and was tough when he had to be, stranding three runners in the second, two more in the fourth and leaving Al Martin at third after he doubled to start the seventh.
Martin had earlier given the Pirates a 1-0 lead by starting the Pirates' first with his 18th homer and his fifth leading off the first while going 3-for-3 with two walks.
After Warren Morris and Adrian Brown led off the second with singles, Joe Oliver popped up and Cordova bunted the runners up. But the Cardinals decided to intentionally walk Martin, and Bottenfield promptly walked Nunez on four pitches to force in a run.
Nunez, a .223 hitter, was 0-for-9 before he singled in the first.
"That can happen any time you load the bases, that's why I hesitate to do it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "You make the guy a better hitter."
La Russa also ordered Morris intentionally walked following Ed Sprague's double to start the eighth. Sprague was forced at third, but Joe Oliver, who began the game in a 4-for-31 slump, doubled to right center to score Morris.
By losing, Bottenfield stays tied at 15 victories with Houston's Mike Hampton, who pitches Sunday, and Boston's Pedro Martinez, currently on the disabled list.
"It would have been nice to have it, but it didn't happen," Bottenfield said. "We need to win some games. We're back in our division and this is a stretch where we've got to win. In that sense, it's kind of a letdown."
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