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Pittsburgh blanks Cards, forces tie at first place

2013-08-30T14:20:00Z 2013-08-31T00:12:04Z Pittsburgh blanks Cards, forces tie at first placeBy Derrick Goold dgoold@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8285 stltoday.com

PITTSBURGH • He has a dozen other wins for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, his first with the club, but three of Francisco Liriano's victories stand out because of what team he's shut down.

Liriano blanked the Cardinals during his eight strong and innings and led the Pirates to more than a 5-0 victory Friday night at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh is now back in first place.

The loss dropped the Cardinals into a tie atop the National League Central. It is the second time in as many visits to Pittsburgh that the Cardinals have arrived in first and promptly been matched or replaced in it by the contending Pirates.

Liriano (15-6) allowed two hits and struck out six in his eight innings of work. The Cardinals did not get a runner to second base against the lefty who has baffled them all season. In his previous two starts against the Cardinals -- both victories -- Liriano has allowed two runs total in 15 innings. The Cardinals have only 10 hits against the left in 24 innings.

He has struck out 20.

The Cardinals got a runner to second base in the ninth inning against the Pirates closer Mark Melancon. Matt Holliday got there after his second hit of the game. Before the ninth, the Cardinals did have a hit with less than two outs.

The Pirates pounded rookie Shelby Miller for all five runs. Garrett Jones drove in four of them with a two-run double, a homer, and run-scoring single. The Pirates strafed Miller with eight hits, six of which went for extra bases. The righty didn't finish the fifth and left relievers Sam Freeman, Fernando Salas and veteran Randy Choate to shoulder the leftovers.

Freeman pitched a scoreless 1 2/3 innings.

He did not allow either of the two runners he inherited from Miller (12-9) to score in the fifth inning.

The series continues Saturday night at PNC Park.

***

Pitt muscles Miller out of the game

The Cardinals haven't scored more than two runs total this season against Pirates starter Francisco Liriano.

They're going to have to find a way to do much more tonight.

The Cardinals trail 5-0 going into the top of the seventh inning at PNC Park. Pittsburgh chased starter Shelby Miller from the game in the fifth inning, but it was the ceaseless string of extra-base hits that hastened the rookie's departure.

Already holding a 2-0 lead that Liriano seemed ready to hold, the Pirates added two solo home runs on back-to-back pitches in the fourth inning. Garrett Jones, who has four RBIs in the game, led off the inning with 100th career home run. Russell Martin followed with a bolt to dead center field. The homers made one of the skyscraper in downtown Pittsburgh -- Gulf Tower -- turn its layer-cake lights atop the building into flashing gold for celebration.

An inning later Marlon Byrd doubled and scored on Jones' single.

Miller walked the next batter, Martin.

That was his night.

Miller, who has already lost three times this season to Pittsburgh, allowed five runs (all earned) in 4 1/3 innings of work. The Pirates tagged him with eight hits -- six of which went for extra bases.

Liriano has cruised. Going for his fourth win in four tries against the Cardinals in his career, the lefty has yet to allow a run. The Cardinals have two hits -- a single by Carlos Beltran and a single from Matt Holliday. A Cardinal has yet to safely reach second base.

The Cardinals have not scored a run in 16 innings.

***

Bucs plunder Miller in the first inning

Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller pushed his way back into the first inning and was one pitch away from escaping trouble.

He didn't get it.

The Pirates jumped the righty for two runs and four baserunners in the first inning Friday night at PNC Park in a game between the top two teams in the National League Central. Garrett Jones cracked a two-out, two-run double to put the Pirates ahead 2-0 going into the second inning.

Miller had to pitch around three hits, one walk, and one hit batter.

And he nearly did.

The first two Pirates of the inning reached base, and an errant throw from the outfield allowed Neil Walker to take second base. He was awarded a double, though it was Shane Robinson's throw in the vicinity of third base that allowed him to take the base. Another misplaced throw in the inning -- this one from Carlos Beltran in right field -- allowed the Pirates to take another extra 90 feet.

Miller struck out MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen with two runners on, and he K'd newest Pirate Marlon Byrd with the bases loaded. Miller got both with high-speed fastballs -- one at 97 mph, the next at 96 mph -- and was one batter or even one pitch away from getting free of the inning. Jones kept him from doing that with his base hit to right field that also was ruled a double despite Jones going to second on what could have been seen as a throw.

***

Kelly set for Sunday, Wacha in the mix for Tuesday

The Cardinals made their trade for a reliever, but that doesn't mean the roster machinations are over just yet.

The Cardinals assigned Carlos Martinez from Class AAA Memphis to Class AA Springfield this afternoon. He will join Michael Wacha there with the Springfield Cardinals. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said both players will report to Springfield, Mo., though neither will pitch for the S-Cards.

Martinez and Wacha will thrown bullpens this weekend.

Martinez is coming off his seven innings and nine strikeouts in a start Thursday night for Triple-A Memphis. Wacha pitched four scoreless against the Reds and had a season-high seven strikeouts this past Wednesday. Both, Matheny said, are candidates to start Tuesday against the Reds. Wacha's success against the Reds may tilt the assignment toward him.

Both players are expected back when eligible on Tuesday.

Tyler Lyons, the third candidate for the start Tuesday, will throw two innings of relief tonight for the Class AAA Memphis club. The Redbirds are playing for a playoff berth, and that has added to the need for fresh arms in the Memphis rotation. Martinez's assignment to Springfield is, in part to get a useable arm up to the Triple-A affiliate. Springfield has been eliminated. Its season ends Monday.

Any suspense over who is starting on Sunday ended this afternoon.

Joe Kelly will go on normal rest and start against the Pirates. Pittsburgh had also been cagey with its starter for that series finale. Predictably, the Pirates are going with a lefty. Chris Johnson will start vs. the Cardinals.

***

Miller leads Cards back into PNC Park

When last the Cardinals crossed the Allegheny River to face the Pirates at PNC Park, they arrived in first place and left in shambles.

They lost their lead in the division.

They lost four of five games.

The trade deadline had come and gone without a move.

And, most of all, Yadier Molina was on the disabled list.

If the Cardinals used their show-them-who-we-really-are comments to set a tone for the recent series against Atlanta, imagine what they're going to be saying about this series, their return to PNC Park.

The similarities are many. They are again in first place. Another trade deadline arrives on Saturday. Their catcher's health is an ever-present concern as they press forward to October, but he's not on the DL and he's been feeling positive about his knee's health.

The Cardinals will follow rookie Shelby Miller into tonight's game. Miller has eight losses this season -- three of them to the Pirates.

New Cardinal reliever John Axford is expected to arrive before game time, though he may not be with the team for its pre-game work.

Here is the lineup that will back Miller and welcome Axford:

1. Carpenter, 2B

2. Beltran, RF

3. Holliday, LF

4. Craig, 1B

5. Molina, C

6. Freese, 3B

7. Robinson, CF

8. Kozma, SS

9. Miller, P

The Pirates are going with Francisco Liriano on the mound. He pitched a complete game against the Cardinals when last they faced each other, and he took a shutout into the ninth inning.

Pirates lineup:

1. Tabata, LF

2. Walker, 2B

3. McCutchen, CF

4. Alvarez, 3B

5. Byrd, RF

6. Jones, 1B

7. Martin, C

8. Barmes, SS

9. Liriano, P

Neither team has announced a starter for Sunday.

Derrick Goold covers the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for The Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @dgoold or on Facebook at Facebook.com/BirdLandPD

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Baseball writers Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel cover the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com. They'll provide daily Cardinals updates here, from the start of spring training through the end of the season and beyond.

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