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Young hurlers square off in Cardinals-Pirates opener

(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the top young pitchers of last season square off on Friday night when Shelby Miller and the St. Louis Cardinals begin a three- game set with Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 23-year-old Miller finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting after going 15-9 with a 3.06 earned run average in 31 starts. His 15 victories were the most by a Cardinals rookie since Dick Hughes' 16 in 1967, and Miller's 169 strikeouts ranked third on the club's all-time single- season rookies list.

Miller, though, did not have much success versus the Pirates, with the right- hander going 0-4 with a 5.32 ERA in four meetings. He pitched to a 6.10 ERA in two starts at Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

Cole also impressed with the Pirates a season ago, especially down the stretch as he went 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five starts in September. The 23-year-old righty went 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 19 total starts.

Cole, the top overall pick of the 2011 draft, has never faced the Cardinals in the regular season, but split a pair of meetings with them in the NLDS. He won Game 2 with six innings of one-run ball, but dropped a 6-1 decision in the deciding Game 5.

The Pirates look to rebound following a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday that denied Pittsburgh a three-game sweep.

Wandy Rodriguez went the first six innings for Pittsburgh and allowed three runs on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts. The lefty hadn't pitched in the majors since last June 5 because of forearm pain.

The Pirates won the first two games in walk-off fashion -- 1-0 on a 10th- inning homer by Neil Walker on Monday and 4-3 in a nearly six-hour, 16-inning marathon on Wednesday. Thursday's game started less than 12 hours after Tony Sanchez's game-winning hit on Wednesday.

Sanchez drove in both Pittsburgh runs in the seventh inning on Thursday.

"All in all, we won a series and we'll move on," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

The Cardinals are coming off a series victory over the Cincinnati Reds as the two clubs exchanged 1-0 decisions to begin the set before St. Louis' 7-6 triumph in Thursday's rubber match.

Jhonny Peralta smacked a two-run homer and Matt Adams went 3-for-5 with two runs scored as Cardinals waited out another long rain delay.

The start of the game was pushed back three hours and 42 minutes by the weather. Wednesday's matchup, a 1-0 Reds' walk-off win, was delayed two hours and 40 minutes by rain.

"It's tough to stay mentally into it, but that's what we had to do to make sure we go out there and perform," Adams said.

Matt Holliday added two hits, including an RBI double, and Trevor Rosenthal shut the Reds down over the final 1 1/3 innings to enable the defending National League champions to take the season-opening three-game series.

Rosenthal's efforts preserved a victory for Lance Lynn (1-0) after the St. Louis starter allowed three runs while striking out seven over five innings.

"After the first inning, I was able to make some pitches when I needed to," Lynn said.

The Pirates won 10 of 19 versus the Cardinals last season, winning seven of the 10 meetings in Pittsburgh.