St. Louis, MO – Francisco Liriano threw his third career complete game and the Pirates ensured themselves of leaving St. Louis in sole possession of first place in the NL Central.
Liriano pitched shutout ball into the ninth inning and the Pirates got second inning homers from Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones in a 5-1 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The Pirates bounced back from a tough 14-inning loss Tuesday, helped in part when Starling Marte dropped a fly ball in the ninth inning when the Cardinals tied the game. Marte had a two-run double in the fourth inning Wednesday, as Pittsburgh extended its lead in the division to three games.
St. Louis' offense was dormant for the most part Wednesday thanks to Liriano (13-5), who bounced back from a brutal performance when he gave up 12 hits and 10 runs at Colorado last Friday. The left-hander allowed four hits and fanned six batters. He's won all three of his lifetime starts against the Cardinals to go with a 1.56 ERA.
"He attacked them and stayed aggressive," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates broke a season-high tying four-game skid and sent the Cardinals to their fifth defeat in seven tries.
Shelby Miller (11-8) surrendered eight hits and five runs -- three earned -- over six innings in the middle test of this three-game series.
Alvarez homered to center to lead off the second, and one out later Jones went deep to right field.
A fielding error by third baseman David Freese opened the door for the Pirates in the fourth. That came after Neil Walker singled. With one out, Tony Sanchez singled to left to make it 3-0. Following a sacrifice bunt from Liriano, Marte doubled to center to plate a pair.
"They were putting the ball right where the players weren't," Miller said. "It's just a tough ball game for us. Liriano did a really good job pitching."
Matt Carpenter doubled with one out in the ninth and later scored on Carlos Beltran's groundout to third.
Matt Holliday extended his season-long hitting streak to 11 games with a lead- off single in the bottom of the second inning. He's reached base safely in each of his 19 games since returning from the disabled list on July 27 ... Liriano is 7-3 in 10 starts this year against the NL Central. Outside of facing the Reds three times, Francisco is 7-0 with a 1.07 ERA within the division ... Liriano is the first Pirate to record a decision in each of his first 18 starts of a season since Vernon Law in 1965, who had a decision in each of his first 19 starts ... The Pirates lead the season series, 8-4 ... Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha had four strikeouts in two innings, his first career relief appearance.