ST. LOUIS -- Francisco Liriano was the model of efficiency Wednesday night.
Making sure Pittsburgh didn't suffer a hangover from its brutal defeat in the opener of its National League Central showdown with St. Louis, Liriano authored a 94-pitch complete game as the Pirates snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-1 verdict at Busch Stadium.
In improving his record to 13-5, Liriano allowed only four hits, walked one and fanned six. He came within an out of his first shutout since May 3, 2011, when he no-hit the Chicago White Sox while pitching for Minnesota.
What's more, Liriano did it five days after allowing 11 hits and 10 runs in 2 2/3 innings of a 10-1 loss at Colorado.
"I didn't have anything on the ball that night," he said. "Tonight, it was a great feeling to help the team. My location was working for me. I hit my spots and the guys made good plays behind me."
Pittsburgh (71-48) beat the Cardinals for the eighth time in 12 games this year and upped its division lead to three games. St. Louis (68-51) fell to 3-6 on its 10-game homestand and lost for the 14th time in 20 games.
After rallying for a 4-3, 14-inning win in the series opener, which ended at 12:11 a.m. Wednesday on Adron Chambers' walkoff single, the Cardinals failed to carry over that momentum. Liriano had just about everything to do with it.
"You'd go to the video room after your at-bat and he never made a mistake over the middle," second baseman Matt Carpenter said of Liriano. "When he's commanding that sinker, and he has the slider and changeup going, he's tough to hit."
Carpenter's one-out double in the ninth marked the only time that St. Louis got a man into scoring position. He moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Carlos Beltran's bouncer to third.
By then, the Pirates were in cruise mode, having already done all their scoring in the first four innings against rookie Shelby Miller (11-8).
Making his first start since Aug. 7, when he left after the game's second pitch after the Los Angeles Dodgers' Carl Crawford lined a double off his pitching elbow, Miller got into second inning trouble due to fastball inaccuracy.
Pedro Alvarez cranked a 440-foot blast over the center field wall, his 29th of the year, to lead off the inning. One out later, Garrett Jones lined his 11th homer of the season into the right field bleachers.
"Shelby's a three-pitch guy to lefthanders and he can really spin it up there," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "I just think he got a couple of pitches up over the plate and we put some good swings on them."
Miller then gave up three more runs in the fourth, basically putting the game out of reach. Backup catcher Tony Sanchez grounded a single to left to score Neil Walker for a 3-0 advantage and Starling Marte, whose dropped fly ball helped the Cardinals force extra innings on Tuesday night, laced a two-run double to left-center.
Miller permitted eight hits and five runs -- three earned -- in falling to 0-3 this year against the Pirates.
"All we can do is turn the page on this one," Carpenter said. "We have a chance to win a series tomorrow."
So do the Pirates, thanks to one of their veteran aces who followed up his worst outing with one of his best, carving up a good lineup with alacrity.
"He's had a lot more good outings than he's had bad ones," Hurdle said of Liriano.
NOTES: St. Louis C Yadier Molina (knee) and OF Shane Robinson (shoulder) expect to be activated for Thursday's series finale with Pittsburgh. Both went on the 15-day disabled list July 31 with injuries suffered during a series in Pittsburgh ... The Pirates gave C Russell Martin the night off with a day game slated for Thursday. Martin is expected to catch A.J. Burnett ... Cardinals LF Matt Holliday was back in the lineup Wednesday night after leaving Tuesday night's game in the bottom of the 10th inning with a mild right ankle sprain, suffered while pivoting to go back to first as Martin faked a throw following a pitch to Rob Johnson. X-rays came back negative on Holliday's ankle.