ST. LOUIS -- For five games in the hostile territory of Busch Stadium, the Pirates merely spun their wheels. On Thursday, they hit for the cycle within the game's first seven batters and pulled away late for a 10-5 victory over the Cardinals to salvage the series' final game and trim St. Louis' lead in the National League Central to six games. The Bucs had been 0-5 this season and had lost 19 of their last 22 games here, including the 2013 National League Division Series.
Neil Walker's triple, Andrew McCutchen's RBI double, Pedro Alvarez's two-run homer and Travis Ishikawa's single fueled Pittsburgh's most prolific first inning on the road in over a quarter century, with Cardinals starter Lance Lynn gone before it was over. Prolonged by third baseman Matt Carpenter's throwing error, the seven-run first was the Bucs' biggest since 10 runs on June 8, 1989, in Philadelphia.
"I think it was good for us to get a little momentum in this ballpark, given what we've done the first five games here," Walker said. "For us to do it against Lynn, one of their better pitchers ... it was great."
"It was terrible, plain and simple," Lynn said of his shortest career start. "You give up seven runs and don't get out of the first inning, that's a poor effort. That's what it was. Next time I have to be better, and I will be. That's all there is to it."
After Liriano's departure, the Cardinals made a move against the Pirates' bullpen, scoring twice in the seventh to near within 7-5 before the Bucs added three runs in the ninth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Offense pops the cork: After having scored nine runs in their first five games of the season at Busch Stadium, the Pirates nearly matched that before the first inning was over. The seven-run burst was ignited by McCutchen's RBI double and featured Alvarez's two-run homer -- not to mention the throwing error by Carpenter that made four of the runs charged against Lynn unearned.
"It was really good for everyone to get involved in the offense," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who applauded his team for hanging tough as much of the lead evaporated by the end of the seventh. "They closed the gap, but you have to keep playing the game. Our guys responded very well today to losing the first two games."
Short night at the office: Lynn faced just 10 batters -- eight of whom reached safely -- before his start abruptly ended. By the time he exited, the Pirates had already scored six times. He would be charged with three earned runs in what was the shortest start of his career. It also marked the quickest exit by a Cardinals starter (not injury- or weather-related) since Anthony Reyes also lasted two-thirds of an inning in an Oct. 1, 2006, start against the Brewers. More >
"Just one of those days," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Lynn. "I think that's basically how we're going to leave it. Forget it as quick as you can. See if there is anything you can learn quickly and move on. They were swinging the bats. They came out right from the top going pretty strong."
Chipping away: The Cardinals' offense remained lively despite falling into a seven-run deficit before even getting a chance against Liriano. Molina shaved a pair of runs off Pittsburgh's lead with a two-run single in the first. The Cards scored again in the sixth, but also left more on the table in an inning that opened with the first three batters reaching. Another two runs scored in the seventh as the Cardinals again loaded the bases. A chance to push the tying runs home, however, was foiled by Kolten Wong's inning-ending strikeout.
"You could feel that they believed we had enough opportunities out there, and if guys just kept going about it the right away, we'd be in this thing," Matheny said. "And we were. We got to the point where we had a couple of really nice chances, but that was just a big ask."
"It's obviously not the ideal situation to be thrown into. You don't expect it. Lance is a guy who usually goes deep into games. But you have to be ready for anything and just try to make the most of an opportunity." -- Tyler Lyons, on throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of LynnMore >
"Perspective is critical in this game. We haven't played our best ball the last two days, and the team with the best record in baseball beat us 4-3 and 4-2." -- Hurdle
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
By contributing two hits to the Pirates' big first -- a triple off Lynn and a single off left-handed reliever Tyler Lyons -- the switch-hitting Walker became the first Buccos player to get a hit from both sides of the plate in the same inning since at least 1961; available data goes back only through the expansion era, starting in 1962.
"As a switch-hitter, you always have to be prepared. But I know it's pretty rare," said Walker, who added a double -- left-handed off Seth Maness -- in the ninth. "It was a good night." More >
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Pirates' unsuccessful challenge of a ninth-inning call at first base had little effect on a three-run put-away rally, but it did cost Jung Ho Kang an RBI. Kang bounced into a double play with the bases loaded and none out, scoring the runner from third. Hurdle challenged umpire Vic Carapazza's call at first, which was quickly upheld. The Bucs pushed across two more runs with two outs.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: The road doesn't get any easier for the Bucs, who on Friday move onto New York, where they have taken one series since 2004 and (including two Interleague series with the Yankees) have a record of 12-32 in the last 10 years. Leading on the mound against the Mets will be J.A. Happ in the 7:10 p.m. ET series opener at Citi Field.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will host the Marlins in a three-game series, beginning with Friday's 7:15 pm CT contest at Busch Stadium. Jaime Garcia (4-4, 1.77 ERA) will face Tom Koehler (8-9, 3.75 ERA) in the series opener. The Cardinals swept the Marlins during a June visit to Miami.