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Snell tosses gem

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ST. LOUIS — Pirates starter Ian Snell used some advance scouting to devise a strategy against the Cardinals on Tuesday.

Snell said he observed Brewers ace C.C. Sabathia against the Houston Astros on Monday night. Every pitch. Even in a cab, where he followed the game on his hand-held.

“I watched the whole game,” he said. “Watching C.C. made me realize a whole bunch of things.”

The first revelation was to live by the fastball. Snell said he threw more fastballs in his 4-1 victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday night than in any of his previous 24 starts this season.

He allowed four hits in seven scoreless innings. He struck out eight and walked one, while improving to 5-10.

“It’s slowly getting healthy and slowly getting back to myself,” Snell said. “It feels good to have my velocity back. I challenged all of their hitters tonight. No matter who it was.”

Manager John Russell said it was Snell’s best game of the season — Snell disputed that, choosing the 10-strikeout, no-walk gem in the second week of the season against the Marlins — and said he expected as much.

Snell, who won for only the third time in his past 22 starts, has put together three quality starts in a row after a disastrous three-month span.

“He’s been building toward this and, hopefully, he can maintain something,” Russell said. “He put it all together tonight.”

After giving up a leadoff single to Skip Schumaker in the first, Snell retired 13 of the next 14 batters before Yadier Molina hit a one-out double in the bottom of the fifth.

Along the way, Snell struck out six different Cardinal batters in the opening four innings, including fanning the side in the fourth, when he set down Albert Pujols, Troy Glaus and Ryan Ludwick.

He whiffed Pujols, batting .348, on three pitches, capped by a nasty slider. In the sixth, Pujols hit a two-out single, but Snell struck out Glaus on a 96-mph fastball.

“I felt good, but it was a total team effort,” Snell said. “It wasn’t just me. It was an awesome game all-around for us.”

— John Grupp

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