Pirates on the brink after downing Cards

AFP, PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania

Tue, Oct 08, 2013 - Page 20

The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the St Louis Cardinals 5-3 Sunday, putting the Pirates on the brink of reaching the second round of the Major League Baseball playoffs.

The Pirates, who are in the post-season for the first time in 21 years, seized a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series.

Game 4 was scheduled for yesterday in Pittsburgh.

Russell Martin belted an RBI single in the eighth after Carlos Beltran had tied the game for St Louis with his second home run of the series in the top half of the eighth.

“When we gave up that go-ahead run on that homer by Beltran it could have been a post-season killer, but to come back and put up that run was huge for us,” Pirates outfielder Marlon Byrd said.

St Louis thrashed the upstart Pirates in Game 1, but Pittsburgh rebounded in a big way with a dominating 7-1 win in Game 2 to even the series.

Beltran’s solo homer off pitcher Mark Melancon made it 3-3, adding to the drama of the series that began with two lopsided contests in St Louis. It was the 16th playoff homer of his career, moving him past Babe Ruth to eighth in the all-time list.

Byrd hit a two-run single and Martin also had two RBI for the Pirates, who got six innings from starting pitcher Francisco Liriano. McCutchen had two hits and scored twice.

Liriano gave up a two-run Beltran single in the fifth and three hits overall. He also walked two and struck out five. Liriano was 3-0 in three starts against the Cardinals in the regular season.

Cardinals starter Joe Kelly came out with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning. The right-hander gave up three runs in just over five innings of work, allowing five hits and walking four. He also struck out five batters.

The Pirates were due to start right-hander Charlie Morton yesterday, while the Cards planned to turn to Michael Wacha.

In his final start of the regular season, Wacha came within an out of throwing a no-hitter.

“Tomorrow [Monday], the guys will be ready and we will put our best game out there,” St Louis manager Mike Matheny said.

In the other National League Division Series on Sunday, the Los Angeles Dodgers used a pair of four-run innings to clobber the Atlanta Braves 13-6 and take a 2-1 series lead.

Carl Crawford belted a three-run homer and scored three times, while Juan Uribe clubbed two-run homer and scored twice, and Yasiel Puig collected three hits, two RBIs and scored three runs for the Dodgers, who bounced back from Friday’s 4-3 loss.

The Dodgers’ potent offense made up for a problematic playoff debut by South Korean rookie pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin.

Ryu allowed four runs on six hits in just three innings of work.