Saint Louis (AFP) – The St. Louis Cardinals crushed the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-1 to launch their Major League Baseball playoff campaign with an emphatic win.
St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright turned in seven brilliant innings as the Cardinals got their quest for a third-straight trip to the league semi-finals off to an excellent start.
The 32-year-old Wainwright struck out nine and allowed just three hits in the opening game of the first round playoff series.
Wainwright said he embraces the extra pressure that comes with playing in the post-season.
“I love to be that guy,” Wainwright said. “It is important to have somebody out there you can count on.”
In the late game Thursday, Clayton Kershaw struck out 12 as the Los Angeles Dodgers cruised past the Atlanta Braves 6-1 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn will face Pittsburgh rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole in game two on Friday.
National League Central Division champs St. Louis scored seven runs in the bottom of the third inning in which eight straight runners reached base in front of a crowd of 45,693 at Busch Stadium.
“To be able to get out on a good first step and play well today, I think is big for our guys confidence-wise,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
Wainwright set the tone in the first game of the best-of-five series by retiring the first 11 batters he faced.
“He had his good stuff going right from the beginning,” said Matheny. “Breaking ball was sharp. Controlled the counts. He had everything really working from the top. When he does that, he’s going to make for a long day for most people.”
Wainwright’s only blemish was when Pedro Alvarez belted a solo home run to lead off the top of the fifth inning.
Carlos Beltran clubbed a three-run home run off Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett during the third-inning barrage, while 2011 World Series MVP David Freese batted two-for-four with a two-run single.
The Cardinals ended the regular season on a six-game win streak to hold off the upstart Pirates for the division crown and beat out Atlanta for the NL’s best record.
Pittsburgh struggled in just their second postseason game since 1992.
The Pirates committed three errors, had a mere four hits and didn’t get much help from starting pitcher Burnett.
Burnett walked four batters, gave up six hits and surrendered seven runs in a little over two innings of work.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said they are not reading too much into one game.
“We had a rough game,” Hurdle said. “We’re down one game in the series, and we’ll move on.”