Giving the playoff upstarts a hard reality check, the St. Louis Cardinals erupted for seven runs in the third inning against A.J. Burnett and cruised to a 9-1 victory in Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday night. The Pirates were coming off an emotional wild-card victory at home Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds, but were greeted rudely by a team making its 26th postseason appearance.
Carlos Beltran hit an enormous three-run homer in the decisive third inning, but that just kicked off the scoring. David Freese drove in a pair of runs and made a sweet diving catch on a liner in the third. Everybody in the starting lineup had at least one hit, except for Daniel Descalso and Wainwright (who reached on a walk).
Wainwright was the ace; He allowed a run and three hits over seven innings with nine strikeouts. His curveball was especially sharp. He threw 71 of 105 pitches for strikes, and the only mark against him was a solo homer to Pedro Alvarez in the fifth.
Burnett was bad. He allowed seven earned runs, along with six hits and four walks. His location was ... off. Manager Clint Hurdle did him no favors by keeping him in for as long as he did. The Pirates also made three errors, which is unusual for them. Defense is one of the things that helped them break their 21-season streak of no playoff appearances.
Beltran's homer didn't put the Bucs away, but Matt Holliday following with a double started a new conga line. Four more runs would follow.
Burnett has a 15.50 ERA over his past five starts at Busch Stadium.
• How long it took Pirates manager Clint Hurdle to yank Burnett from the game.
• Does Beltran belong in the Hall of Fame?
• Wainwright's unreal curveball.
Rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole tries to stem the tide for the Bucs on Friday at 1 p.m. ET in Game 2. Another burly righty, Lance Lynn, toils for Team Fredbird.