PITTSBURGH - One of the Pittsburgh Pirates' greatest strengths in their turnaround season is resiliency. They showed it again Sunday.
Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin hit consecutive RBI singles in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Pirates to a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at PNC Park.
"I think our guys have just gotten real good with good old-fashioned effort and grit," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's been a formula that's played well for us."
The Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series and will try to close it out Monday afternoon in their home ballpark.
The Pirates held a 3-2 lead entering the eighth inning but Carlos Beltran's leadoff home run off All-Star set-up reliever Mark Melancon tied the game.
Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the eighth with a double to whip the PNC Park-record crowd of 40,489 into a frenzy. However, the ballpark quickly fell silent when McCutchen inexplicably took off for third base on Justin Morneau's ground ball to shortstop Pete Kozma and was thrown out easily.
Yet the Pirates were able to survive both body blows as the Pirates, in the postseason for the first time since 1992, kept coming at rookie right-handed reliever Carlos Martinez in the eighth.
Marlon Byrd walked, moving pinch runner Josh Harrison to second, and Alvarez followed by greeting left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist with a ground single into right field that scored Harrison with the go-ahead run. Martin added with a run-scoring single to make it 5-3.
"We've been down a few times this year," Martin said. "We've been able to battle back and win some games. When you do that, you start gaining confidence. Right now, we're playing good baseball, pretty much like we have all year long."
Alvarez's winning hit came after he homered in each of the first two games of the series. He has driven in a run in all four of the Pirates' postseason games.
"It's been great. It's been a lot of fun," Alvarez said of his first postseason experience. "The atmosphere, the energy has been outstanding. That's what you dream of, to be able to play these kind of caliber games at this time of year."
The rally put the Cardinals on the brink of elimination. However, manager Mike Matheny said his team won't be shaken by the loss.
"We've had tough losses all season, most teams have," Matheny said. "I've been very impressed how our club has bounced back whenever something hasn't gone exactly how we planned. They have a short memory. Right now, it hurts. They're going to sit on it for a little while. Tomorrow morning, they'll be ready to go."
Byrd had two hits and two RBIs for the Pirates, Martin drove in two runs, and McCutchen had two hits and walked twice. McCutchen is 7-for-13 (.538) in the postseason with five walks for an on-base percentage of .684.
Beltran drove in all three Cardinals runs. The home run was his second of the series and the 16th postseason homer of his career. It also was the first one hit by the Cardinals in 10 games at PNC Park this season.
"We thought we were going to win this one when we came back to tie it up twice," Beltran said. "Now, it's a must-win tomorrow. It's pretty simple."
Melancon ended up as the winning pitcher and Martinez took the loss. Jason Grilli pitched a perfect ninth inning for the save.
Neither starting pitcher factored in the decision after each went 3-0 against the opposing team in the regular season.
The Pirates' Francisco Liriano gave up two runs on three hits in six innings with two walks and five strikeouts. The Cardinals' Joe Kelly went 5 1/3 innings and allowed three runs and five hits while striking out five and walking four.
Martin's sacrifice fly gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Alvarez was walked intentionally to fill the bases for Martin, who delivered a drive to center to bring in the go-ahead run.
The Pirates broke on top 2-0 on Byrd's two-run single in the bottom of the first inning. Beltran answered with a two-run single up in the middle in the fifth to tie the game at 2-2.
NOTES: Alvarez, Byrd and Martin have driven in 11 of the Pirates' 14 runs in the series. ... Game 4 is set for 3:07 ET Monday afternoon with St. Louis rookie RHP Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 in the regular season) facing Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.26). Wacha was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two games (one start) against the Pirates in the regular season as he pitched nine scoreless innings. Morton was 0-2 with a 7.90 ERA in three starts against them in the regular season and is 2-9 lifetime. ... Pirates SS Clint Barmes returned to the lineup after INF Jordy Mercer started at shortstop in Game 2. Hurdle wanted a better defensive shortstop in the game with Liriano, a sinker-slider pitcher, on the mound. ... Kevin McClatchy, the principal owner of the Pirates from 1996-2006, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.