St. Louis at Pittsburgh

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St. Louis (62-41)000001001270
Pittsburgh (62-42) «40000050x990

Pirates rout Cardinals, cut NL Central deficit to half-game

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- Clint Hurdle grabbed the brim of his cap and ducked his head. When pressed about what pleased him the most about Pittsburgh's 9-2 victory against St. Louis on Monday, a romp that propelled the resilient Pirates within a half-game of the NL Central lead, the manager thought for a moment and sighed.

"Getting a little picky, aren't we?" he asked with a smile.

Hurdle isn't. Neither is his team as it tries to shrug off two decades of misery and mediocrity.

Francisco Liriano allowed one run over seven dominant innings, Pedro Alvarez hit his NL-leading 27th home run and the Pirates kicked off a pivotal series by sending the Cardinals to their season-high fourth consecutive loss.

Liriano (11-4) continued his midcareer renaissance by striking out eight and walking only two to win his fifth consecutive start.

"It's been a good run for him being able to watch, and that's pretty much what I've been doing," Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "I don't get a lot of action when he's on the mound. It makes it a lot easier for the defense."

Having some help from an underachieving offense helps. The Pirates came in hitting only .221 with runners in scoring position, the worst mark in baseball. Clint Barmes smacked two doubles and drove in two runs and McCutchen added two hits as Pittsburgh went 5 for 13 with runners on second or third to continue its mastery over St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook.

The veteran right-hander fell to 1-8 against Pittsburgh in his otherwise solid résumé. The Pirates touched Westbrook (7-5) for four runs in the first inning, capped by Alvarez's three-run homer into the first row of seats in right field.

"It was a battle from Pitch One -- and it showed early on," Westbrook said. "It's not really how you draw it up with a walk and a hit batsmen and a single and a homer. Put us in a bad spot against a good team and against a guy who's throwing the ball really well."

Hurdle stressed the need to not place too much focus on a late-July series, pointing out two more months remain after the five-game set wraps up on Thursday.

Maybe, but with the Pirates chasing their first playoff berth in 21 years and a chance to make inroads on the team with the best record in baseball, the game had an electricity typically reserved for early fall in cities far away from the one that hasn't fielded a winner since 1992.

Lower-lever tickets were fetching $100 or more hours before the first pitch, and Liriano did not disappoint the largest Monday-night crowd (32,084) since the park opened.

The left-hander, whose path to stardom veered off track after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2007, had little trouble with the most explosive offense in the majors. He retired the first 10 batters he faced and kept the best-hitting team in the National League on its heels while dropping his ERA to 2.16.

"Frankie can answer," Hurdle said. "He's been in big matchups before."

So has Westbrook, who still hasn't figured out a way to handle the Pirates. He was touched for four runs in the first inning of his previous start at PNC Park in April. The game was eventually washed out.

The weather couldn't save him this time. Neither could Westbrook's usually solid control. He issued three walks and hit three batters and never appeared comfortable.

"He's going to go out there and give us whatever he's got every time and for whatever reason this team's just given him a tough time and he's had a hard time in this stadium," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.

Westbrook survived a bases-loaded jam in the second to stay close, but by then Liriano had all the support he would need. His only real mistake came in the sixth, when pinch-hitter Tony Cruz led off with a triple and scored on Carpenter's single up the middle. A strikeout and a double play followed, and the Pirates broke it open in the seventh against relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Fernando Salas.

Garrett Jones started it with Pittsburgh's first sacrifice fly to the outfield since May 27 and Barmes clubbed a two-run double as the Pirates batted around.

Even with its best offensive showing since the All-Star break, Hurdle isn't so sure the Pirates made a statement.

"We're a confident team," he said. "I think we're a team whose confidence isn't built on its last game. It's not shattered by a losing streak. You continue to push through and that's what we've done from Opening Day until now."

Notes

  • Pirates LF Starling Marte did not start after getting a planned day off in favor of Alex Presley, recalled from Triple-A on Monday after C Mike McKenry went onto the disabled list with a sprained knee. Marte entered in the seventh as a pinch hitter and singled. He is hitting only .131 (5 for 38) since July 20.
  • The series continues with a doubleheader Tuesday. A.J. Burnett (4-7, 2.96 ERA) faces Lance Lynn (12-5, 3.98 ERA) in the opener with the Cardinals' Tyler Lyons (2-3, 5.51) starting the second game. The Pirates will not name a starter for the second game until Tuesday morning.
  • Lynn was originally supposed to start the second game, but Matheny moved him into the matchup against Burnett because he wanted a more experienced pitcher to take on Pittsburgh's ace.
 
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Pedro Alvarez belts a three-run roundtripper to give the Pirates a 4-0 lead before the Cardinals can retire a batter.  (USATSI)
Pedro Alvarez belts a three-run roundtripper to give the Pirates a 4-0 lead before the Cardinals can retire a batter. (USATSI)

Players of the Game
Pittsburgh

F. Liriano
IP 7.0
H 4
ER 1
BB 2
K 8
Pittsburgh

P. Alvarez
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 3
 

Related Video

St. Louis Cardinals
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Matt Carpenter, 2B4011010 .317
Carlos Beltran, RF4010011 .297
Matt Holliday, LF4120001 .268
Allen Craig, 1B4000032 .322
Yadier Molina, C3000022 .331
   Rob Johnson, C1010000 .500
David Freese, 3B2000100 .267
Shane Robinson, CF-RF3011100 .263
Pete Kozma, SS3000012 .241
   a-Matt Adams, PH1000013 .297
Jake Westbrook, P1000000 .200
   b-Tony Cruz, PH1110000 .220
   Daniel Descalso, SS2000013 .263
Totals33272210  
a-struck out for Salas in the 9th
b-tripled for Westbrook in the 6th
Batting
3B - Tony Cruz (1, Liriano)
RBI - Matt Carpenter (51), Shane Robinson (12)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - M. Carpenter
St. Louis Cardinals
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jake Westbrook (L,7-5) 5444321 3.18
Marc Rzepczynski 1.1222100 7.84
Fernando Salas 1.2333120 4.79
IBB - Martin by Fernando Salas
HBP - Walker (by Jake Westbrook)
Pitches-Strikes - Jake Westbrook 100-56, Marc Rzepczynski 20-9, Fernando Salas 35-20
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jake Westbrook 7-6, Marc Rzepczynski 2-1, Fernando Salas 1-2
Batters Faced - Jake Westbrook 25, Marc Rzepczynski 6, Fernando Salas 9
Pittsburgh Pirates
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Jose Tabata, RF3100212 .253
Neil Walker, 2B2210100 .245
Andrew McCutchen, CF5221002 .302
Pedro Alvarez, 3B4113120 .244
Russell Martin, C2100113 .251
Garrett Jones, 1B3010000 .256
Alex Presley, LF-RF4111002 .289
Clint Barmes, SS4122001 .224
Francisco Liriano, P3000001 .097
   a-Starling Marte, PH-LF1011000 .277
Totals3199954  
a-singled for Liriano in the 7th
Batting
2B - Garrett Jones (22, Westbrook), Clint Barmes 2 (11, Rzepczynski)
HR - Pedro Alvarez (27, Westbrook)
SF - Gaby Sanchez (4)
RBI - Andrew McCutchen (56), Pedro Alvarez 3 (68), Gaby Sanchez (27), Alex Presley (3), Clint Barmes 2 (13), Starling Marte (30)
2-OUT RBI - Alex Presley (2), Clint Barmes 2 (7), Starling Marte (14)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Alvarez-Walker-G. Jones
Pittsburgh Pirates
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Francisco Liriano (W,11-4) 7411280 2.16
Tony Watson 1000010 3.12
Vic Black 1311010 6.75
HBP - Freese (by Vic Black)
Pitches-Strikes - Francisco Liriano 102-61, Tony Watson 13-9, Vic Black 29-18
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Francisco Liriano 8-4, Tony Watson 1-1, Vic Black 1-1
Batters Faced - Francisco Liriano 26, Tony Watson 3, Vic Black 7
Game Information
Attendance - 32084
Game Time - 2:51
Temperature - 74
Umpires - Home - Jeff Kellogg, First Base - Eric Cooper, Second Base - Paul Schrieber, Third Base - Chad Fairchild