ST. LOUIS —
Adam Wainwright started the rally with a full-count walk. By the time it was over, the St. Louis Cardinals' ace had quite a cushion.
Carlos Beltran's three-run homer sparked an NL division series-record seven-run third inning and Wainwright kept the Pittsburgh Pirates down with seven stingy innings in a 9-1 rout to open their NL division series Thursday night.
During the postgame, the 19-game winner complimented Beltran for his latest big October contribution.
"Way to go, dude,'' Wainwright said. "Crushed that ball.''
The Pirates were the last National League team to reach the division series, and had momentum after beating the Reds in the wild-card game. They were essentially out of it after A.J. Burnett failed to retire any of the eight hitters he faced in the third inning, leaving after the second-shortest outing of his career.
Burnett walked three in the rally, including Jon Jay with the bases loaded, and hit Matt Adams. The major league record for runs in an inning in the division series is eight runs by the Angels in 2002.
"Walking anybody never works out, never works out,'' Burnett said. "It was a grind, I thought, from the first pitch.''
The NL Central-champion Cardinals have won seven in a row counting their season-ending surge. Another sellout crowd is anticipated for Game 2 Friday, with Lance Lynn (10-5) opposing Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole (10-7).
Lynn got the nod for his 2.12 ERA in September, while Cole finished even stronger, going 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA the final month.
"You get fired up for this stuff,'' said third baseman David Freese, the Cardinals' homegrown 2011 postseason hero. "You work so hard for six months and then to be part of an October run, that's a special thing.''
The Pirates, in the postseason for the first time since 1992, never threatened against Wainwright and the St. Louis bullpen, mustering just four hits. They were sloppy, too, committing three errors.
Wainwright is 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in three postseason starts at home. He allowed a run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine without a walk, with the lone damage a homer by Pedro Alvarez to start the fifth.
The right-hander built off a strong finish, going 4-0 in his last five starts.
The 36-year-old Beltran has never made it to the World Series, but he has 15 homers, 10 doubles and 28 RBIs in 35 postseason games. His 443-foot drive to the distant second deck in right field made it 3-0.
Beltran's 13 career RBIs against Burnett are the most of any player.
Freese added a two-run single in the third that cleared the bases when right fielder Marlon Byrd's throw to the plate deflected off Freese's leg for an error.
Burnett was 3-1 against the Cardinals this season but has gotten rocked in his last two visits to St. Louis, also giving up five runs in three innings in early September. In five outings at Busch Stadium the last two seasons he has a 15.50 ERA.
Hurdle was noncommittal on whether Burnett would get the ball if the Pirates make it to Game 5, again in St. Louis.
"Obviously, you want to come out and put your foot down,'' Burnett said. "That wasn't the case today.
"But you know what? The sun comes up tomorrow and I'll do my work and do what I can.''