PITTSBURGH -- There haven't been many days better than Saturday for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the last 20 years.
The Pirates took over sole possession of first place in the National League Central by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 7-1 as A.J. Burnett pitched seven strong innings, Russell Martin hit a three-run home run and Neil Walker had three hits.
Pittsburgh, which hasn't been to the postseason or had a winning record since 1992, pulled one game ahead of the Cardinals in the division race. A raucous season-high crowd 39,514 was on hand at PNC Park on a night that also featured postgame fireworks and a concert.
Before the game, the Pirates made a significant addition to their lineup by acquiring first baseman Justin Morneau from the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Alex Presley and a player to be named. The Pirates, noted for their low-budget ways over the years, even took on all of the $2.2 million remaining on Morneau's contract.
Morneau was with the Twins in Texas and did not arrive at the ballpark until the third inning. He was in the dugout by the beginning of the sixth inning, exchanging handshakes and hugs with new teammates while the Pirates were already well on their way to their second victory in the three-game series that concludes Sunday afternoon.
The win clinched the season series for the Pirates, who lead 10-5. That means Pittsburgh would host the Cardinals in a one-game playoff Sept. 30 if they finish tied for the NL Central title.
Burnett (7-9) allowed only one run and four hits while lowering his earned run average to 3.09 in 25 starts. Burnett also had six strikeouts and one walk.
Jose Tabata and Marlon Byrd added two hits apiece as Pittsburgh had a total of 13.
Lance Lynn (13-9) was hammered for seven runs and 10 hits in four innings while walking three and striking out four. He has a 7.66 ERA in his last four starts.
The Pirates opened the scoring with two runs in the second inning as Burnett and Tabata hit consecutive RBI singles with two outs.
The Cardinals cut the gap to 2-1 in the third on Carlos Beltran's run-scoring with two outs, but Pittsburgh answered with five runs in the bottom of the inning.
Pedro Alvarez led off with a double and scored on Byrd's single. Following a walk to Garrett Jones, Martin hit a three-run home run, his 13th of the season, to put the Pirates ahead 6-1. Two outs later, Tabata singled and scored on Walker's triple to make it 7-1.
NOTES: The Pirates will recall LHP Kris Johnson (0-1, 3.00) prior to Sunday's finale of the three-game series to face St. Louis RHP Joe Kelly (6-3, 2.91). ... Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook (strained lower back) reported no pain Saturday, a day after throwing his second bullpen session of the week, and said he is hopeful of coming off the disabled list on Sept. 7, the first day he is eligible. ... Pittsburgh recalled RHP Stolmy Pimentel from Indianapolis and optioned RHP Jared Hughes and OF Andrew Lambo to Double-A Altoona.