ST. LOUIS — Carlos Beltran, Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals gave the Pirates a quick reality jolt.
Beltran's three-run homer sparked a seven-run third inning Thursday, and Wainwright pitched seven stingy innings as St. Louis opened the NL Division Series with a 9-1 rout over Pittsburgh.
"To be able to get out on a good first step and play well (Thursday) I think is big for our guys confidence-wise," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Gives us an opportunity to just take some momentum, and momentum is big right now when you talk about a five-game series."
The first eight Cardinals reached in the third to chase A.J. Burnett, saddling the right-hander with the second-shortest outing of his career. A sellout crowd roared then settled in for an easy victory by the NL Central champions, making their third consecutive trip to the postseason.
"Game 164 was rough," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "One of the things we've been good at is we don't overcook things."
Lance Lynn faces Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole in today.
After a record 20 straight losing seasons, the Pirates are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1992. They entered their first best-of-five Division Series after beating the Reds in the wild-card game Tuesday, but Pittsburgh never threatened to rally against Wainwright.
Pittsburgh also was sloppy in the field, committing three errors. St. Louis was sharp, with reliever Carlos Martinez turning in the top play by slinging an off-balance throw to first to nip Russell Martin in the eighth.
Wainwright improved to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 postseason games, five of them starts. He allowed only a homer by Pedro Alvarez to start the fifth.
Beltran has the most homers of anyone in their first 35 postseason games. His 15 postseason homers are tied for the eighth-most all-time with Babe Ruth, who hit all 15 of his in the World Series. Beltran has 15 homers in 129 postseason at-bats, matching Ruth's exact totals in both stats.