ST. LOUIS —
Beltran's three-run homer sparked a seven-run third inning Thursday and the Cardinals got seven stingy innings from Wainwright to open their
"To be able to get out on a good first step and play well today I think is big for our guys confidence-wise," St. Louis Manager Mike Matheny said. "Gives us an opportunity to just take some momentum, and momentum is big right now when you talk about a five-game series."
The first eight Cardinals reached safely in the third to chase
A sellout crowd roared and then settled in for an easy victory by the
"Game 164 was rough," Pirates Manager
Lance Lynn (15-10) faces Pittsburgh rookie
After a record 20 straight losing seasons, the Pirates are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1992. They entered their first best-of-five division series with plenty of momentum after beating Cincinnati in the wild-card game Tuesday, but Pittsburgh never threatened to rally against Wainwright and finished with only four hits.
Pittsburgh also was sloppy in the field, committing three errors. St. Louis was sharp on defense, with reliever Carlos Martinez turning in the top play by slinging an off-balance throw to first to nip
"What a play!" Matheny mouthed in the dugout.
Wainwright remained unbeaten in the postseason, going to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 games, five of them starts.
He allowed a run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine without a walk. The only damage came on a homer by
The right-hander tied for the NL lead with 19 wins this year and was 4-0 in his last five starts. He thrives on expectations.
"I'd love to be that guy," Wainwright said. "It's important to have somebody go out there that you can count on for sure."
Wainwright also started the Cardinals' big burst with a leadoff, full-count walk.
Beltran, who has never reached the
"I almost got caught up in the moment," said Wainwright, who had a perfect view from second base. "I threw my hands up in the air as soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone.
"Then I realized I had to run."