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The Juice: Garrett Jones drives in four as Pirates knock off Cardinals, draw even in NL Central

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The Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t have to wait long for somebody to step up in the opener of their pivotal weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals. With the bases loaded against Shelby Miller in the first inning, Garrett Jones turned on a 2-1 pitch and lined it into right field for a two-run double. And that was just the beginning of Jones’ big night. In the fourth inning, Jones would deliver a solo home run — the 100th of his career — to make it 3-0. Russell Martin would then make it back-to-back jacks with a homer of his own. Then one inning later, Jones capped his three-hit, four-RBI game with an RBI single.

[Related: Pirates trade for Justin Morneau]

Jones couldn’t have picked a better night to break out of his slump — he entered hitting .119 in August — and he credits his turnaround to a conversation he had with newly acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd.

From the Associated Press:

''He came up to me and said you're a guy who can hit 30-40 home runs,'' Jones said. ''He started talking to me about hitting and the few things he mentioned to me just made a lot of sense.''

Pirates fans can only hope Jones continues making sense of Byrd's wisdom. In the meantime, starting pitcher Francisco Liriano didn’t really need all of the support, but I'm sure he was glad to have it. In eight shutout innings, the left-hander allowed only two hits and walked two while striking out six.

With Pittsburgh's 5-0 victory, Liriano improved to 15-6 on the season, which marks the first time in his career he’s reached 15 wins.

Men on a mission: In his first game after being benched in favor of Skip Schumaker, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig returned to the lineup with a bang on Friday night. In five plate appearances, Puig finished with three singles, a double, one RBI, one run scored and two stolen bases. Basically, he was a one man wrecking crew, which is what we're sure Don Mattingly was hoping for, but he had a little help as well. Adrian Gonzalez (two homers, four RBIs) and Hanley Ramirez (two doubles, two RBIs and two runs) also had big nights as the Dodgers rolled the Padres, 9-2.

The Toddfather nears a milestone: Just ten days after turning 40, Todd Helton had the best game of his 17th season with the Colorado Rockies. In Colorado's 9-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, Helton connected for two three-run homers, giving him 11 overall on the season and 365 for his career. The two hits were No. 2,498 and 2,499. He'll go for 2,500 on Saturday.

MORE SCORES

Phillies 6, Cubs 5: Ryne Sandberg was victorious in his return to Chicago. Philadelphia trailed 5-0 early and never led until Michael Young’s RBI single in the ninth.

Mets 3, Nationals 2: Daniel Murphy scored the difference making run from second base on a groundball.

Blue Jays 3, Royals 2: Mark Buehrle tossed seven quality innings to win his sixth straight decision.

Yankees 8, Orioles 5: C.C. Sabathia struggled again, but New York's offense picked him up. Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro both homered.

Tigers 7, Indians 2 (7 inn.): Rain-shortened game that saw Miguel Cabrera leave early again after tweaking his abdominal area.

Red Sox 4, White Sox 3: Ryan Dempster wins his return start after serving a five-game suspension.

Braves 2, Marlins 1: Julio Teheran bested Jose Fernandez in the first of what should be several classic battles between those two young right-handers.

Twins 3, Rangers 2: Yu Darvish carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but still takes the loss after allowing back-to-back home runs to Chris Herrmann and Justin Morneau.

Angels 5, Brewers 0: A good night for good pitchers continues as Jered Weaver tosses six scoreless.

Mariners 7, Astros 1: Baseball's No. 4 prospect, Taijuan Walker, wins his major league debut after blanking Houston for five innings.

Giants 1, Diamondbacks 0: Brandon Belt's first inning sacrifice fly was all Tim Lincecum and three Giants relievers needed.

A's 4, Rays 3: Oakland takes a half-game lead on Tampa Bay in the Wild Card. Both remain a fairly comfortable four games ahead of Baltimore.

"The empty seats in the bleachers were something new to me. Most of my career, from '84 on, it was a tough ticket and a sellout, so a little odd to see the bleachers that empty. But other than that, I noticed a lot of Phillies fans made the trip and were here. They got a little bit loud there in the ninth."

— Ryne Sandberg on his return to Wrigley Field

• Red Sox starting pitchers have allowed three or fewer runs in ten straight games.

• The Braves optioned Evan Gattis to Triple-A Gwinnett.

• The Dodgers won 22 games in a month for the first time since August 1953. (Via ESPN Stats & Info)

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