PITTSBURGH — Francisco Liriano pitched seven dominant innings, Pedro Alvarez hit his NL-leading 27th home run and the Pirates beat the Cardinals 9-2 Monday night.
Liriano won his fifth straight start for Pittsburgh, which kicked off the key series at PNC Park by sending the Cardinals to their fourth straight loss and pulling within a half-game of the NL Central lead.
Clint Barmes doubled twice and drove in two runs for the PIrates. Andrew McCutchen added two hits and an RBI.
Jake Westbrook fell to 1-8 against the Pirates in his career after surrendering four first-inning runs. Matt Carpenter and Shane Robinson hit RBI singles for St. Louis, which has scored a total of four runs during its longest losing streak of the season.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle stressed the need to not place too much focus on a late July series. Maybe, but with the Pirates chasing their first playoff berth in 21 years and a chance to make inroads on the team with the best record in baseball, the atmosphere was electric. Lower-lever tickets fetched $100 or more hours before the first pitch.