St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Adam Wainwright got the St. Louis Cardinals' quest for a third straight trip to the National League Championship Series off to an excellent start, as the staff ace turned in seven brilliant innings to lead the way in a 9-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 1 of the Division Series from Busch Stadium.
Backed by a seven-run bottom of the third in which eight consecutive Cardinals reached base, Wainwright (1-0) permitted just three hits and struck out nine in a dominant seven-inning stint for the NL Central champions. The All-Star hurler's only blemish came when Pedro Alvarez belted a home run to lead off the top of the fifth.
St. Louis, which ended the regular season on a six-game win streak to hold off the upstart Pirates for the division crown and edge Atlanta for the NL's best record, received big efforts from two other proven postseason performers. Carlos Beltran socked a three-run homer off A.J. Burnett during the third- inning barrage, while 2011 World Series MVP David Freese went 2-for-4 with a two-run single.
"To be able to get out on a good first step and play well today, I think is big for our guys confidence-wise," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, showed its inexperience in just its second playoff game since 1992. The Pirates committed three errors, mustered a mere four hits and received an ineffective effort from Burnett (0-1). The veteran righty walked four and hit a batter in addition to surrendering six hits and letting up seven runs in only two-plus innings of work.
"We had a rough game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle remarked. "We're down one game in the series, and we'll move on."
Wainwright immediately set the tone in the opener of this best-of-five series, retiring the first 11 Pittsburgh hitters and not letting a ball out of the infield until Andrew McCutchen and Justin Morneau delivered back-to-back two- out singles in the fourth inning.
"He had his good stuff going right from the beginning," said Matheny. "Breaking ball was sharp. Controlled the counts. He had everything really working from the top. When he does that, he's going to make for a long day for most people."
Burnett matched zeros with Wainwright for the opening two frames, but came completely apart in the third as the Cardinals broke the game wide open.
He walked Wainwright to begin the Cardinals' half of the inning, then yielded a single to Matt Carpenter before Beltran launched his 15th career postseason homer -- a towering shot that landed off the second-deck facade in right field.
"Today was a game where [Burnett] wasn't locating pitches," said Beltran. "He was falling behind and we were able to put ourselves in a hitter's count. We put good swings on the ball and we were able to score early."
After Matt Holliday doubled to continue the onslaught, Burnett hit Matt Adams prior to walking Yadier Molina and Jon Jay in succession to force in another run. Freese then singled off Morneau's glove to plate both Adams and Molina, with Jay also scoring on the play when Marlon Byrd's throw from right field skipped past Morneau and into foul territory.
Alvarez briefly gave Pittsburgh a spark with a fifth-inning moonshot that landed in the same area as Beltran's blast. It was the Pirates' last baserunner until the ninth, however, with Wainwright ending his outing with nine straight outs and Carlos Martinez tossing a 1-2-3 eighth before Trevor Rosenthal closed things out around a two-out single by McCutchen.
The Cardinals took advantage of some more shoddy defense from their division rivals to extend the margin later on.
Following Jeanmar Gomez's walk to Jay and a Freese single in the bottom of the fifth, Daniel Descalso hit a tailor-made double-play ball that Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes threw wildly to first on, enabling Jay to cross the plate for an 8-1 spread. An inning later, Molina laced a double into the gap in right center that brought home Adams all the way from first when McCutchen mishandled the ball in the outfield.
Holliday and Molina each finished with two hits and a run scored ... Including three regular-season starts there, Burnett has allowed 19 runs over 15 1/3 innings at Busch Stadium this year ... Beltran tied Babe Ruth for eighth place on the all-time postseason homer list ... St. Louis improved to 5-1 in Game 1s at home in Division Series play ... Jay went 1-for-2 after ending the regular season on a career-best 14-game hitting streak ... Rookie Gerrit Cole will take the ball for Pittsburgh in Friday's Game 2, with the Cardinals countering with 15-game winner Lance Lynn.