Martin's homer sparks late rally as Pirates win

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ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals bullpen provided a lot of relief for the Pirates offense Saturday.

After struggling to score against St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook, the Pirates pounced on the Cardinals' bullpen en route to a 5-3 victory at Busch Stadium.

A.J. Burnett (2-2) earned the win, though he did not throw a single pitch with the lead. That's because Westbrook controlled the Pirates, a team he has struggled to manage throughout his career.

Westbrook pitched six scoreless innings to drop his ERA this season to 0.98. He struck out six batters and allowed six hits.

Before Saturday, Westbrook was 1-7 with a 5.28 ERA against the Pirates. But once he left the game, the Pirates (14-10) found some traction on offense.

Scouting report

  • Matchup:

    Pirates vs. Cardinals, 2:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis.

  • TV, Radio:

    Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).

  • Probables:

    LHP Jeff Locke (2-1, 3.74) vs. RHP Shelby Miller (3-1, 2.16).

  • Key matchup:

    Andrew McCutchen vs. pitching at Busch Stadium, where, before Saturday, he was 29 for 82 (.354) with 6 doubles, a triple, 2 home runs and 12 RBIs.

  • Hidden stat:

    This will be Locke's first career outing against the Cardinals, a division rival. On the other hand, he already has three appearances against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The first three batters to face Cardinals reliever Joe Kelly got hits in the seventh inning, including a two-run homer by Russell Martin that tied the score, 2-2. The homer, Martin's third this season, came on a first-pitch fastball.

"He probably left the pitch in a place he didn't want to leave it," Martin said. "It just took off."

Andrew McCutchen drew a bases-loaded walk later in the inning to give the Pirates their first lead of the series, and second baseman Daniel Descalso failed to turn a double play on a Garrett Jones ground ball, a fielder's choice that allowed Starling Marte to score and extend the Pirates' lead.

It was the third time in the past four games the Pirates waited out a hot starting pitcher to attack the bullpen. The Pirates couldn't hit Roy Halladay Wednesday or Cliff Lee Thursday but clubbed the Phillies bullpen to earn two victories.

"Starters, they get paid the big bucks for a reason," Martin said. "They know how to get guys out."

Pirates reliever Tony Watson got through the top of the Cardinals order in the bottom half of the seventh, getting Matt Carpenter to pop out and Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday to strike out after giving up a leadoff walk.

Closer Jason Grilli allowed his first earned run this season but picked up his league-leading 10th save.

Burnett allowed two earned runs on five hits in six innings, striking out six and walking three. But he was inefficient, a problem he has encountered throughout the season that has limited his ability to pitch deep in games.

"They've all been battles so far," Burnett said. "I'm still trying to find that groove."

In the fourth, he did not allow a hit but faced a bases-loaded situation because of his lack of command. He recorded the first two outs on five pitches. Then, he hit Jon Jay with a pitch and walked Pete Kozma and Descalso. He nearly walked in a run, going to a full-count with Westbrook before getting the benefit of the doubt on a borderline pitch for strike three.

Burnett threw 27 pitches in the inning.

Through six starts, Burnett is averaging 4.31 pitches per plate appearance. The major league average is 3.87. Over the course of an outing, such a difference adds up. Over the course of the season, it becomes an issue, especially for a 36-year-old pitcher.

"Today was a day we thought we'd get seven or eight innings out of him, and we get six," manager Clint Hurdle said. "And it took us [111 pitches] to get that."

St. Louis (14-9) doubled an early lead in the sixth with some two-out offense. Jay doubled into the right-field corner with two outs to become the fifth Cardinals player to reach base with two outs. Kozma followed with an RBI single to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

The Pirates had a chance to take the lead in the third, when Marte sparked what looked like it would be a two-out rally. His single and the one by Jose Tabata that followed brought McCutchen to the plate with two on. McCutchen, however, swung at the first pitch he saw and flied out to right to end the threat with the Pirates still trailing, 1-0.

The Cardinals attacked Burnett early to grab that 1-0 lead in the first. Carpenter and Beltran opened the inning with back-to-back singles, putting runners on first and second with no outs. It was the second consecutive game Carpenter and Beltran started with back-to-back hits.

Burnett managed to limit the damage by getting Holliday to ground into a double play, but Carpenter, who moved to third on Beltran's single, scored.

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Michael Sanserino:, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published April 28, 2013 4:00 AM


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