ST. LOUIS – In his first start of the season, A.J. Burnett worked seven scoreless innings to beat St. Louis. The second start against the Cardinals, just 11 days later, was a disaster.
Carlos Beltran drove in a career-best seven runs with a pair of three-run home runs and an RBI single in the first three innings, leading the way as the Cardinals punished Burnett and the Pittsburgh Pirates 12-3 on Tuesday night.
"Everything was up, every leadoff guy got on," Burnett said. "You can't pitch that way."
Rookie Lance Lynn (5-0) joined James Shields as the major leagues' only five-game winners, allowing three hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings with six strikeouts to beat the Pirates for the second time in three starts. Lynn has a 1.60 ERA as the replacement starter for Chris Carpenter, sidelined indefinitely with nerve issues in his right shoulder.
Burnett (1-2) entered with a 1.38 ERA but trailed 4-0 after six pitches. The right-hander surrendered 12 runs on 12 hits in 2 2-3 innings, as the Pirates tried to save their bullpen.
"Obviously, good teams do make the adjustments but I was up all night," Burnett said. "I couldn't get anything down and it don't matter where you pitch or who you pitch against, if it's up you're going to get hammered."
The runs allowed topped Burnett's previous worst of nine on four occasions, the last time coming last Aug. 26 at Baltimore. He allowed 12 or more hits for the seventh time, exiting one shy of his career worst last Aug. 3 at the Chicago White Sox.
Burnett said the problem was all about mechanics.
"I know what happened," he said. "It's just a matter of getting the work two days from now in the bullpen and getting back downhill where I belong and taking the ball in five days."
Pirates catcher Rod Barajas was ejected for complaining about home plate umpire Angel Campos' calls in the second inning, tossing his mask in disgust after a pitch called a ball for a 1-2 count against Beltran. Manager Clint Hurdle was subsequently tossed for defending his player, his first of the season and sixth in his second year with Pittsburgh.
The argument was a carryover from his at-bat in the top of the second, when he flied out to right.
"The second pitch I felt was probably down and out of the strike zone and he called it a strike," Barajas said. "I asked him if he just wanted to make sure that was a strike and he said 'Yeah, that was a strike.'"
"If our guy throws the ball in the same spot you're expecting a strike to be called."
Burnett didn't get involved in the discussion.
"I thought it was a strike. It could be a strike tomorrow, you never know," he said. "I had more things on my mind than that one pitch."
Beltran entered in a 3-for-32 slump with one double and three RBIs his last nine games. The slump started three games after he was moved to cleanup. He said after batting practice that he hadn't been seeing the ball well but several times added that it was nothing to worry about, then turned it around with his first swing, a three-run shot to right that made it 4-0.
Beltran had an RBI single in the second before launching another three-run homer in the third that made it 12-1, a drive to left center for Beltran's team-leading seventh homer after a replay overturned the initial umpire ruling and justified fireworks and a sign in the shape of a truck grill that blinked its headlights even though Beltran initially had to put the brakes on at second base.
Beltran topped his previous RBI high of six and he added a broken-bat single in the fifth to match a career best with his 21st four-hit game.
The top four in the lineup — Rafael Furcal, Jon Jay, Matt Holliday and Beltran — were a combined 9 for 9 with two homers, 10 RBIs and seven runs the first three innings. Jay had three hits and was hit by a pitch his first four trips and is batting .429 with an 11-game hitting streak.
Furcal singled twice with a steal and sacrifice fly, Holliday had two hits, a walk and an RBI and the Cardinals got triples from Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter, who had three hits.
The Cardinals have outscored the Pirates 22-8 the first two games. It was the most lopsided loss for Pittsburgh since a 15-1 whipping at Los Angeles on Sept. 18.
The NL Central leaders have won five of six and will go for a three-game sweep Thursday with Jake Westbrook (3-1) opposing Erik Bedard (1-4). The Cardinals have outscored their opponents by 65 runs, best in the majors, after 24 games.
NOTES: Umpire C.B. Buckner, who left Tuesday's game in the seventh inning due to illness, was replaced by D.J. Reyburn manning 3B. ... Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen got his first day off. ... Cardinals C Yadier Molina stole two bases in a game for the second time in his career on Tuesday, and despite a distinct lack of speed he's 4 for 4 on the year. ... The Pirates have been outscored 22-7 in the first innings. ... Jay is 21 for 43 (.488) during his hitting streak. ... Josh Harrison had two RBI singles for Pittsburgh, the first as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. ... Pedro Alvarez is 9 for 20 during a five-game hitting streak, one game longer than his best streak in 2011.