By Sarah K. Spencer and George Von Benko
PITTSBURGH -- Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez nearly went the distance in the Cardinals' 5-1 win over the Pirates at PNC Park on Saturday. He gave up six hits, struck out five and walked three in 8 1/3 innings, surrendering the lone run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
"There's nights good pitching stops good hitting," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "And that kid's stuff, if anybody's got the time, watch a videotape, watch every pitch thrown tonight. That was good stuff."
The Cardinals took advantage of a wild pitch by Pirates starter Francisco Liriano and a passed ball by catcher Chris Stewart in the fifth inning to trigger their scoring.
Liriano, who pitched a scoreless first four innings, ended the night with eight strikeouts, charged with four runs, just one of them earned.
"Liriano was pitching really well," said Matt Holliday, who took Liriano deep in the fifth. "He gives us fits and pitches really well against us. For us to get him with a four-spot, obviously with the way Martinez is pitching, it felt pretty good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cards grind out offense: The Cardinals broke through against Liriano in the fifth. Liriano gave up a double to Brandon Moss, who advanced to third on a wild pitch to Jedd Gyorko. Then, although Liriano struck out Gyorko, Gyorko advanced to first on a passed ball, and Moss scored from third. Holliday's three-run homer to right-center gave the Cardinals a four-run advantage.
Martinez solid: Martinez had a dominant outing, as he shackled the Pirates, allowing one run on six hits in 8 1/3 innings en route to his third straight win. He tried to notch his first career complete game but had to yield to closer Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth to close it out.
"As everybody can see, Martinez had no shortage of velocity," manager Mike Matheny said. "He had everything he needed. I think he wanted the complete game too bad there in the ninth. Crazy things happen to us in this park, so when [the Pirates threaten] Rosenthal can come in and shut the door, he's going to." More >
The last catcher: In the seventh inning, Stewart aggravated an existing injury to his left ankle and foot during a collision at home. Jhonny Peralta hit a line-drive single to Starling Marte, scoring Randal Grichuk. Marte threw home as Jeremy Hazelbaker tried to score from second base. Stewart caught Marte's pass and successfully tagged Hazelbaker, who clipped Stewart's left ankle in his attempt to reach the plate. The Pirates replaced Stewart with Erik Kratz. More >
"Between the two foul balls I've taken off it the last three days, it's kind of ... There's fluid and stiffness, and the guy slid in there and and just kind re-aggravated it. ... It's one of those things where he ran into something that had been bugging me and it just made it worse." -- Stewart, on needing to be removed from the game after the collision
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: Right-hander Mike Leake (4-4, 4.22 ERA) will start on Sunday in the series finale. Leake is 8-4 with a 3.16 ERA in 25 career starts against the Pirates.
Pirates: The Pirates, led by lefty Jonathon Niese (6-2, 3.93 ERA), will try to avoid a sweep in their final game of the series vs. the Cardinals. In his most recent outing, vs. the Mets, Niese didn't concede a run and limited his former team to four hits in seven innings..