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Cardinals vs. Pirates, August 1

The Cardinals used a five-run fifth inning Sunday to purge a couple of demons and beat the Pirates 9-1.

First, they overcame their phobia of sweeping three-game series. Second, they handed a beating to a mediocre pitcher who for some unknown reason had the Redbirds' number.

St. Louis hitters hammered Zach Duke for seven hits and six earned runs in five innings. Duke and Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright locked up in a pitchers' duel for the first four innings. But Colby Rasmus doubled to start the bottom of the fifth and Brendan Ryan tried to bunt him over to third base and ended up getting a single out of it instead. With two on and no outs, Wainwright came to the plate and lined a base hit to give St. Louis the lead. Aaron Miles followed with an RBI single but the threat seemed to be at an end when Felipe Lopez hit into a double play. Rookie Jon Jay came through, however, with a two out hit to drive home another run. Albert Pujols came up next and put a two-run shot into the left field bleachers.

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Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan strokes a double in the third inning Sunday against the Pirates. AP photo.

That was more than enough for Wainwright who threw seven innings and allowed only one run on six hits. He struck out five and walked none. Wainwright improved to 15-6 with a 2.19 ERA and has to be a favorite to win the Cy Young Award as we head into the home stretch.

The win allowed the Cardinals to stay half a game ahead of the Reds in first place in the National League Central Division. The Reds beat the Braves two games out of three over the weekend.

Cardinals Star of the Game: Brendan Ryan was 3-for-3 with three runs scored to raise his batting average all the way to .218 for the season. Hopefully, now that he has a little bit of a cushion, he'll relax a little bit and play the way St. Louis fans know he is capable of playing for the rest of the season.

Cardinals Play of the Game: Wainwright's fifth inning single. It's the second consecutive day that the Cardinals pitcher drove in the winning run.

Lowlight: Felipe Lopez was 0-for-4 and hit into a double play.