By R.B. Fallstrom
ST. LOUIS —
The Pittsburgh Pirates have no worries about posting their first winning record in 21 years, a milestone that will come soon enough.
Also, they won’t have to face Joe Kelly again.
“Tonight we pushed him. We were one big hit away,” manager Clint Hurdle said after the St. Louis Cardinals pulled to a half-game back of the NL Central leaders with a 12-8 victory on Friday night. “But it’s no secret. I mean, he’s been doing it for six weeks.”
Carlos Beltran had RBIs his first two at-bats to help chase A.J. Burnett early and Kelly (8-3) stranded 10 runners in six innings. Burnett has a 5.25 career ERA in St. Louis.
“They seem to get ahold of me here and that’s a good lineup, and I thought I could have done more,” Burnett said. “Finger’s pointed at me, not the ballpark.”
Carlos Beltran had RBIs his first two at-bats to help chase A.J. Burnett early and Kelly beat the Pittsburgh Pirates for the third straight time.
Burnett (7-10) gave up five runs in three innings, his shortest outing of the year, and the Cardinals opened a seven-run seventh with nine straight hits off three relievers including Yadier Molina’s three-run homer off Bryan Morris. The Pirates have lost two straight, both blowouts, and remain a win shy of clinching their first winning season since 1992.
“It’s just another number closer to our goal,” Andrew McCutchen said. “So, we’re just trying to continue to keep going, continue to keep pushing, continue to keep winning, and show up tomorrow and be ready to go.”
Kelly has been the stopper lately for a struggling rotation, winning five straight starts. He’s 8-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 11 appearances since getting the fifth spot in late June and then waiting 14 days because of off-days in the schedule to make that start.
Since the All-Star break, Kelly is 7-0 with a 1.70 ERA.
Leadoff man Matt Carpenter tripled and doubled to tie Albert Pujols’ season record of 98 hits in 2008 at 8-year-old Busch Stadium, also his major league high 55th multihit game. Jon Jay, coming off a 1-for-20 trip, had three hits and three RBIs.
The Pirates have scored two runs in 18 innings against Kelly. The only thing the right-hander hasn’t done is save the bullpen, working six innings in each of his last five starts with a season best of 6 1-3 innings.
Pittsburgh had five base runners and no runs the first two innings and stranded 10 runners in six innings against Kelly, who allowed one run and eight hits. Pedro Alvarez, who grounded out with the bases loaded to end the first, had an RBI single in the fifth.
“I guess he didn’t give people much to hit today,” said McCutchen, who singled with two walks against Kelly. “I got on base all three times so I can’t really speak for anybody else.”
The Cardinals led 12-1 after seven innings but needed Edward Mujica to get the final out for his 36th save in 39 chances. Josh Harrison hit a two-run pinch-hit homer off Jake Westbrook in a four-run eighth and Jose Tabata hit a two-run double off Carlos Martinez in a three-run ninth before Harrison flied out with two men on to end a game that lasted 3 hours and 47 minutes.
“We’re not going to give up regardless of what the score is,” McCutchen said. “We’re going to keep battling, we’re going to keep going, keep pushing.”
The Cardinals rebounded from a 2-5 trip in which they scored two or fewer runs five times, one of them against Burnett in a 7-1 loss Aug. 31. Burnett had been 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA in five starts against the Cardinals, but facing them in consecutive starts led to his fastest exit since he allowed 12 earned runs in 2 2-3 innings, including two homers and seven RBIs by Beltran, in a 12-3 loss May 2, 2012, also in St. Louis.
Carpenter tripled to open a three-run third and Jay, Matt Holliday and Beltran followed with RBI doubles for a 5-0 lead. The Cardinals started fast in the first with a walk and two singles the first four at-bats.
The first four hitters in the Cardinals order totaled 10 hits and eight RBIs.
NOTES: Cardinals reliever John Axford was ejected in the eighth after hitting pinch-hitter Tony Sanchez with a pitch after warnings were issued earlier in the game, with manager Mike Matheny also getting the boot. ... Eighth-place hitter Daniel Descalso doubled to open the seventh and flied out for the first out. The Cardinals were three hits shy of matching the major league record of 12 straight hits to start an inning by St. Louis on Sept. 17, 1920, against the Boston Braves and Brooklyn on June 23, 1930, against the Pirates. ... Pete Kozma of the Cardinals had an infield hit in the seventh to end an 0-for-33 slump.