User ID
Password
  Forgot User ID
or Register Today!
VegasInsider.com
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Google+ VI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds
Home
NFL
NBA
NHL
MLB
NCAA FB
NCAA BK
Horses
Golf
Auto
Soccer
More
Betting Tools

 
Pirates beat Cardinals 7-1 to take NL Central lead

New Sportsbook.ag customers: Make your 1st bet, get your 2nd bet free, 100%, winnings paid in cash.
Join Now

Already have an account? Click here to view new Exclusive Rewards!

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The latest addition by the suddenly splurging Pittsburgh Pirates hustled into the dugout in the sixth inning on Saturday night eager to step into the batter's box against St. Louis if necessary.

Advertisement
Take a breath, Justin Morneau. The Pirates - and the pennant race - aren't going anywhere.

A.J. Burnett scattered four hits over seven innings, Russell Martin hit a three-run homer and the Pirates beat the Cardinals 7-1 on Saturday night to regain sole possession of the NL Central lead.

Neil Walker added three hits for the Pirates, who improved to 79-56 and moved within three victories of their first winning season since 1992. And there's still a month left.

``It's a great feat,'' Burnett said. ``It's been a long time, but our goals have been higher than that.''

Burnett (7-9) gave up one run while striking out six and walking one. He received plenty of help only hours after the Pirates acquired Morneau from the Minnesota Twins, hoping the 2006 AL MVP can give a middling offense a jolt heading into the stretch drive.

Morneau didn't waste time getting to Pittsburgh. He left Texas - where the Twins were playing the Rangers - in the middle of the afternoon, arrived at the airport just before 8 p.m. and was in uniform trading jokes with his new teammates moments after pulling on a black-and-gold jersey.

``You try to get here as quick as you can because you want to be a part of this,'' Morneau said.

The 32-year-old first baseman will have to wait until Sunday to get his first major league at-bat for someone other than Minnesota. By the time he was inside PNC Park, the Pirates had things well in hand.

Martin keyed a five-run second with his drive off Lance Lynn (13-9), who has a 7.66 ERA in his last four starts.

``It just (ticks) you off and that's where I'm at,'' Lynn said. ``I'm not happy with the way I'm throwing the ball, but I'm going to fix it and I'm looking forward to the next month because it's going to be better.''

It might have to be if St. Louis wants to keep pace with Pittsburgh.

The trade for Morneau marked the second big move by the Pirates in five days as they try to beat out the Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds in baseball's tightest division race. Pittsburgh brought in Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the New York Mets on Tuesday.

Asked if he was encouraged by the way the Pirates' notoriously thrifty front office opened the checkbook to bring in three proven veterans, Burnett couldn't fight back a smile.

``That's what they're supposed to do,'' he said.

Pittsburgh ranks 10th in the NL in runs scored, one of the main reasons general manager Neal Huntington aggressively pursued Morneau. But the Pirates are averaging 5.2 runs per game during their current six-game homestand and Morneau's arrival gives MVP contender Andrew McCutchen and slugging third baseman Pedro Alvarez some much-needed protection.

``Everybody knows we got better with the addition of Justin,'' Martin said. ``He's an ex-MVP. He knows what he's doing out there. He's going to give you a productive at-bat and he lengthens the middle of the order.''

For a night, however, it wasn't McCutchen, Alvarez or Morneau but role players who provided the pop as the Pirates clinched the season series over St. Louis.

Burnett got Pittsburgh started with an RBI single in the second, and Jose Tabata followed with one of his own to stake the Pirates to a 2-0 lead. It could have been worse after Lynn loaded the bases before striking out McCutchen to get out of the jam.

Lynn wasn't so fortunate one inning later. Alvarez led off with a double, Byrd singled him home and Garrett Jones walked. Martin stepped in and sent a fastball into the front row of seats in right-center for his second homer in two nights to give Pittsburgh a 6-1 lead. Walker added an RBI triple later in the inning.

While Lynn managed to stay in the game, he left after four innings following a miserable start in which he gave up seven runs on 10 hits with three walks and four strikeouts. His ERA rose to 4.29.

The deficit proved far too large for a suddenly reeling offense. The Cardinals lead the NL in batting average and runs but have scored just once in their last three games.

``We've had a few balls hit hard, but not a lot,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ``I like what our offense has done over the majority of the season. You don't want to take a couple of games and start making conclusions. We're just going to keep going about it.''

Burnett's control had something to do with it in front of the second-largest crowd in the 12-year history of PNC Park. Working both sides of the plate effectively, Burnett assured Pittsburgh heads into the final month of a remarkable season in first place for the first time since it won the NL East in 1992.

NOTES: Reliever John Axford, acquired on Friday from Milwaukee, pitched a perfect seventh in his Cardinals debut. ... The Pirates have outhomered St. Louis 18-3 in 15 meetings this season. ... St. Louis SS Pete Kozma grounded out while pinch-hitting for Lynn and is hitless in his last 29 at_bats. ... The series concludes Sunday. Joe Kelly (6-3, 2.91 ERA) starts for St. Louis against Kris Johnson (0-1, 3.00). ... The Cardinals have not settled on a starter for Tuesday in Cincinnati. Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons are all under consideration.

---

Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2015
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
HEADLINES
Mejia: NL Futures analysis
Mejia: AL Futures analysis
Goldschmidt leads D-Backs over M's in 10
Bryant homers in 9th, Cubs edge Rockies
A-Rod HRs on 40th b-day, Yanks top Texas
Wieters HR in 11th helps O's edge Braves
Giants double up Brewers, 'under' cashes
Hosmer propels Royals over Indians, 9-4
Rockies trade Troy Tulowitzki to Blue Jays
MORE HEADLINES
 
Why Buy Picks From VegasInsider.com
MLB Pro Baseball Handicapper Sports Picks Records
MLB Hot Streaks
4-1 +328 Y'day, 5-1 +451 G-Plays
19-5 Last 24, 28-10 Last 4 Days
5-0 Streak, 11-5 +600 L16 G-Plays
13-6 Run, 19-7 +1,325 L26 G-Plays
9-5 +492 L2 Days, 13-7 +717 L20
6-3 L3 Days, 14-6 L20 Guarantees
+2,050 Net Profits This Year
2-0 Sunday, 10-3 L13 Guarantees
9-3 +582 L12 Picks, 4-0 G-Plays
3-1 L4 G-Plays, 9-5 +409 L14 Picks
20-11 L31 Guaranteed Plays
Perfect 3-0, +396 Win Streak
MLB Pro Baseball Expert Sports Picks- Kevin Rogers
2015 MLB SEASON PICK RECORDS
Money Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kevin Rogers + 1434
Chip Chirimbes + 1367
Dave Cokin + 1304
Underdog Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kevin Rogers + 1770
Dave Cokin + 1456
Michael Black + 1049
Over-Under Leaders
Handicapper Money
John Fisher + 839
Kyle Hunter + 710
Marc Lawrence + 300
Guaranteed Leaders
Handicapper Money
Joe Nelson + 1226
Bruce Marshall + 1174
Chip Chirimbes + 1067
Favorite Leaders
Handicapper Money
Chip Chirimbes + 1710
Vince Akins + 1168
Mark Franco + 1038
Member Leaders
Handicapper Money
Chip Chirimbes + 1489
Stephen Nover + 652
Dave Cokin + 483
MORE PICK RECORDS
  
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!
VI Daily Fantasy Sager Bomb