The Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the big surprises in the major leagues this season and will shoot for a fourth straight win today in the continuation of a three-game series against the NL Central-rival St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The Pirates earned a four-game split with Philadelphia before annihilating St. Louis, 14-5, in Friday's series opener. Andrew McCutchen led the charge by going 4-for-5 with a home run, three RBI and four runs scored, while Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes and Alex Presly all went deep for the Pirates, winners in three straight and nine of their last 13 games.
McCutchen's 15 home runs are the most by a Pirate before the All-Star break since Willie Stargel clubbed 21 in 1965.
"We've been good as of late. This is what we've been waiting for all season," Presley said on the Pirates' website. "We've come together as a unit, and from top to bottom, you can see guys contributing. We're really swinging it well."
Pittsburgh starter Kevin Correia allowed five runs on six hits over five innings with three strikeouts and two walks for the win. Brad Lincoln tossed three scoreless innings in relief and Chris Resop closed the door in the ninth.
The Pirates remained one game behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead with the Cardinals 2 1/2 games off the pace. Pittsburgh is 3-2 on a seven-game road trip and 18-22 away from the Steel City.
Taking the mound for the Buccos Saturday will be Jeff Karstens. Karstens, who has been bothered by shoulder and hip injuries this season, is 0-2 with a 6.35 earned run average in four starts and was roughed up the last time out in an 8-3 setback at Philadelphia on Monday. He gave up seven runs -- six earned -- and 11 hits in five innings.
Karstens, a right-hander, is 0-2 in three road starts this season and 1-2 with a 4.13 ERA in seven career games (6 starts) against the Cardinals.
St. Louis has dropped two straight since winning five in a row and opened a 10-game homestand on a sour note last night.
Adam Wainwright was saddled with the loss for giving up seven runs and 11 hits in five innings, while the bullpen surrendered seven more runs.
"I was able to keep cool between innings and I felt like I was refreshed when I went back out there each time," Wainwright said about dealing with the heat. "Tonight was just one of those horrible nights when I didn't make pitches when I needed to."
Allen Craig hit a three-run homer and Carlos Beltran finally collected his 2,000th career hit with a game-tying RBI single in the second inning for the Cardinals, who fell to 17-17 in the Gateway City this season. The Cardinals will also host Colorado and Miami on the residency.
Beltran is one homer shy of 200 in the National League and needs one more double for 400 in his career. He has an RBI in a team-best seven straight games (12 total) dating back to June 22 at Kansas City.
"I just have to thank God for making it happen, keeping me in this game long enough to accomplish something like that," Beltran said of reaching the 2,000- hit mark. "I'm grateful for that and thankful for the opportunity he has given me to play this game at a high level."
Matt Holliday had two hits in Friday's loss and entered the game batting .489 since June 16. He is hitting .357 in seven games against Pittsburgh this season.
Toeing the rubber for the Red Birds tonight will be Lance Lynn. Lynn is 0-2 in his last two starts since winning four of five trips to the mound, and is aiming for his 11th win of the season. Lynn, who led the majors in wins at one point this season, did not record a decision in Sunday's 11-8 victory at Kansas City in which he allowed six runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Lynn has allowed 11 runs over the past two starts and is 10-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 15 outings this season. The right-hander has filled in nicely while staff ace Chris Carpenter recovers from a balky shoulder and has defeated Pittsburgh twice already this season. Lynn is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA in three career games (2 starts) against the Pirates.
Despite last night's win, the Pirates have lost four of seven matchups with St. Louis this season and 10 of the past 15 meetings in this series.