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Martin's homer sparks Pirates' rally

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- As a catcher, Russell Martin gets to watch plenty of batters. He took a cue from the St. Louis lineup to help Pittsburgh make its latest comeback on Saturday.

"It seems like a lot of the St. Louis hitters try to hit the ball to right-center field. They have good approaches at the plate," he said. "So I decided to use their approach."

Taking Joe Kelly's first-pitch fastball the other way, Martin lined a two-run homer into the right field seats, tying the score in the top of the seventh inning and triggering the Pirates' four-run rally that led to a 5-3 victory at rainy, foggy Busch Stadium.

Andrew McCutchen's bases-loaded walk later in the inning snapped a 2-2 tie and gave Pittsburgh (14-10) the lead for good. Garrett Jones knocked in the fourth run with an infield out and Gaby Sanchez had a pinch-sacrifice fly in the eighth.

A.J. Burnett (2-2) left the game trailing 2-0 after laboring through six innings and 111 pitches, but he was the beneficiary of St. Louis' latest late-game meltdown. Kelly (0-1) was charged with all four runs in the seventh, and Rosenthal walked McCutchen on a 3-and-2 pitch as the Cardinals' bullpen dropped to 0-5 with an ERA over 5.00.

"I felt great going out there," Rosenthal said, "but I wasn't able to execute all my pitches. I was trying to keep the ball low to McCutchen, but he did a good job laying off that pitch low in the zone."

After Pedro Alvarez started the seventh with a single, Martin was ready to swing the bat.

"I'm always aggressive," he said. "I figured (Kelly) would be around the zone so I was looking for something to hit. He probably left it more over the plate than he wanted and I took advantage of it."

It was the third homer for Martin, the former Dodger and Yankee signed by the Pirates as a free agent on Nov. 30 in hopes he would provide leadership and a power bat. After a slow start, Martin is 15 of 39 in his last 11 games and is tied for second in the National League with five caught stealings.

After Martin's homer, Clint Barmes and Starling Marte sandwiched walks around a strikeout, forcing Kelly from the hill for Rosenthal. But Rosenthal couldn't clean up the mess his teammate made, undoing another excellent outing for a St. Louis starter.

Jake Westbrook controlled the first six innings of the game, which was mostly devoid of the fireworks that marked St. Louis' 9-1 win on Friday that saw three Pirates ejected -- including starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, who was suspended for six games and has appealed it.

Entering the game with a 1-7 record and 5.28 ERA against Pittsburgh, Westbrook scattered six hits, walked none and whiffed six. He threw 60 of his 91 pitches for strikes and lowered his ERA to 0.98.

"He was better than we were today," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Westbrook. "That's as well as he's ever thrown against us. We tried and we battled, but he was better. Fortunately, we got to their bullpen."

Three relievers collected the last nine outs for Pittsburgh, with Jason Grilli picking up his league-leading 10th save despite yielding a run-scoring double to Carlos Beltran. The Pirates cut the Cardinals' NL Central lead to a half-game.

The Cardinals (14-9) scored in the first on Matt Holliday's double-play ball, then upped their lead to 2-0 in the sixth on Pete Kozma's two-out single that scored Jon Jay. But Pittsburgh stormed back for its fourth win when trailing after six innings.

"You never take things for granted," Hurdle said. "When you come back like we did today, it breeds confidence that you can do it again."

NOTES: Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker received six stitches in his right index finger after Kozma stepped on his hand in the eighth inning on Friday night as Walker tried to break up a double play. Walker could go on the disabled list as the stitches won't be removed for at least a week. ... Pittsburgh right fielder Travis Snider was scratched just before first pitch with discomfort in his left side and was replaced by Tabata. ... Cardinals infielder Jermaine Curtis made his major-league debut in the bottom of the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter, striking out after an eight-pitch at-bat.
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