Beltran, Wainwright star as Cardinals pound Pirates in NLDS opener

News-DemocratOctober 3, 2013 

— The Pittsburgh Pirates pitched and played like postseason newbies Thursday.

The St. Louis Cardinals? Well, they've been on this stage a few times before, and their 9-1 victory over the Pirates in Game 1 of the National League Division Series sent a clear message that they plan to hang around for a while.

Adam Wainwright fired seven masterful innings and Carlos Beltran's 15th career postseason homer highlighted a record-breaking seven-run third against A.J. Burnett that powered the Cardinals before 45,693 at Busch Stadium.

"All year long, we've faced A.J. and he has pitched good games against us," Beltran said of Burnett, who was 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA in six regular-season starts against the Cardinals. "(But) today was a game where he wasn't locating pitches. He was falling behind, and we were able to put ourselves in a hitter's count."

Beltran's three-run homer, a majestic 443-foot shot on a 2-1 pitch, landed in the second deck in right, snapping a scoreless tie and putting the Cardinals ahead for good.

Wainwright, meanwhile, allowed one run on three hits, with no walks and nine strikeouts. He recorded 11 ground-ball outs, and his lone mistake came in the fifth when Pedro Alvarez walloped a 437-foot homer to right to make it 7-1.

"First pitch, (a) fluttering changeup in the middle of the plate," Wainwright said of the pitch the Alvarez. "That's just me trying to set up his next at-bat. I wanted to let him hit a home run there."

Wainwright, of course, was laughing. He could afford a bit of humor after the run support he received from his teammates.

"When you get a big lead like that, the key is to not change anything," he said. "It's still a 0-0 ballgame. If you take that mindset, then you can still attack hitters and you stay out of big counts."

For the Pirates, their first full round of "Buctober" is off to a rough start. In their last four games against the Cardinals, they have been outscored 35-11.

But nothing was as miserable as the latest pounding administered by the Cardinals. The Pirates, in the postseason for the first time in 21 years, committed three errors and were cooked after St. Louis' big third that set an NLDS record for most runs in an inning.

"We had a rough game; Game 164 was rough," still-upbeat Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, adding that he and his players will "honestly self-evaluate what we have to do (Friday)."

"We're down one game in the series, and we'll move on," he said. "We've lost a few games like this. What we've been good at is just moving on. We knew coming in we had to find a way to win a game here. Didn't win today."

Game 2 is at 12:07 p.m. Friday.

Every Cardinals starter except Wainwright and shortstop Daniel Descalso had a hit, but Wainwright's walk fueled the deciding third.

Leading off the inning, Wainwright was behind in the count 1-2 before coaxing the free pass from Burnett, who then melted down, surrendering Matt Carpenter's single and Beltran's homer.

Beltran's 15 postseason homers tied Babe Ruth for eighth place on the all-time list. Among active players, only Derek Jeter (20) and former Cardinal Albert Pujols (18) have more than Beltran.

"In my first at-bat, he was pounding me inside with a lot of sinkers, and actually he got me out with a sinker inside," Beltran said. "In my second at-bat, I told myself he probably was going to pitch me the same way. He threw me a sinker ... and it kind of ended up in the middle of the plate, and I was able to put a good swing on it."

Matt Holliday followed with a double, Matt Adams was hit by a pitch and Yadier Molina walked to load the bases. Jon Jay walked to force in a run to make it 4-0, and David Freese's single between first baseman Justin Morneau and the bag made it 6-0.

When Pirates right fielder Marlon Byrd's throw to the infield hit Freese and rolled into foul territory, Jay scored and it was 7-0.

Hurdle finally replaced Burnett after Freese's hit.

"We felt that we were going to give him that last hitter, Freese, get the ground-ball double play, see if we could get some balance and keep the game right there where it was," Hurdle said. "Three feet to the left, the ball is by us. Three more runs score after that."

And with Wainwright on the hill, it was party time at Busch.

"What more can you ask for than getting a great outing from your starting pitcher and nine runs from your offense ... to get their starter out of the game before the fourth inning?" Descalso said. "You probably couldn't have drawn it up any better.

"But they're going to come out ready to go (Friday), and we're going to have to be ready for them, too."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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