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St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds

St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong catches a pop fly by Cincinnati's Yasiel Puig in the April 28 game at Busch Stadium. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

The Cardinals collected 16 hits and eight walks against Pittsburgh pitching Thursday night and batted around three times to post a 17-4 win over the Pirates at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals had six doubles and Marcell Ozuna drove in four runs and Dexter Fowler had three RBIs. Yadier Molina and Paul Goldschmidt had three hits each.

"It was a good win for us," Goldschmidt said. "It was nice to come out and get the lead and add on, and we’ll try to do it again tomorrow. It was just one of those games, just one of those outlier games. Guys had good at-bats and we found some holes out there, too. You just try to take it day by day and get good at-bats and hit the ball hard."

Michael Wacha (3-0) was the beneficiary as he worked 5 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on nine hits. That was good enough on a night that the Cardinals chased Pittsburgh starter Joe Musgrove after three-plus innings.

The Cardinals scored four runs in the second inning, five in the fourth and five in the sixth, sending at least nine batters to the plate in each of those innings. Walks played a major role in the scoring as seven of the eight Cardinals who walked ended up scoring.

“Everybody swung the bats well and we got some good pitches to hit,” Fowler said. “Our luck wasn’t there the last few days with hitting line drives right at people, but we put some good at-bats together and found some holes.”

After some rough recent outings, Dominic Leone pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four.

The game featured some oddities, including a Molina single off the wall in right-center field, a dropped third strike that helped extend the big sixth inning and a slow ground ball that turned into a two-run fielding error by Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals scored so much, so early that Molina had three hits and had scored three times by the fourth inning.

Cards score five more

The Cardinals continued to pile on the runs as they collected three doubles in the sixth inning, including a three-run double by Marcell Ozuna, to stretch their lead over Pittsburgh to 16-4 after six innings at Busch Stadium.

Kolten Wong had his second double to start things off. Paul Goldschmidt doubled to drive in a run. And yet another walk issued by Pittsburgh set up a bases-loaded double by Ozuna.

The Cardinals have 13 hits, including three by Yadier Molina, and have taken eight walks, of which seven have scored. They have six doubles.

The sixth-inning uprising was aided when Harrison Bader struck out but reached base on a wild pitch, which delayed the second out of the inning by five batters.

Cards blow game open

Four walks, a single off the wall in right-center field and a two-run error on a slow ground ball were part of a five-run inning as the Cardinals pulled away to an 11-2 lead after four innings at Busch Stadium on Thursday night.

Pittsburgh starter Joe Musgrove was pulled after he walked the first two batters of the inning and he finished with five walks, four of which ended up scoring.

Reliever Clay Holmes walked the first batter he faced, struck out Marcell Ozuna and then walked Jose Martinez to force in the first run of the inning.

With the bases loaded, Yadier Molina followed with a drive off the wall in right center, but some hesitation on the base paths led to the runners moving up one base each as Molina settled for a single and one RBI.

Dexter Fowler then hit a slow grounder that first baseman Josh Bell had roll under his glove and into unprotected territory deep in the infield, allowing Paul DeJong and Martinez to score. Kolten Wong followed with a double to score Fowler.

Cardinals bat around

The Cardinals batted around in the second inning and scored four runs against Pittsburgh starter Joe Musgrove to take a 4-1 lead over the Pirates at Busch Stadium on Thursday night.

Dexter Fowler drove in two runs with a ground-rule double and Yadier Molina and Paul Goldschmidt each drove in a run as the Cardinals collected four hits in the inning and benefited from two walks.

Marcell Ozuna walked to open the inning and Matt Carpenter walked with two outs to allow Goldschmidt to hit. He singled up the middle to score Fowler.

Gregory Polanco hit a long home run in the first inning  to give the Pirates a quick 1-0 lead. His shot against Michael Wacha cleared the Cardinals' bullpen.

Martinez pitches in Memphis

Carlos Martinez continued his rehabilitation by throwing 23 pitches for Memphis on Wednesday in one inning of work that saw him walk two batters. He also had one strikeout.

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Martinez could be 10 to 14 days from returning to the team but that he was only estimating at this point. Martinez threw in the range of 95 mph to 98 mph.

“We expect it to be fairly fluid,” Shildt said. “We have a plan in place, but he’s pitching well and recovering well. We’ll take his temperature and see where he’s going and where we’re at. That will be the fluid part.”

Martinez will remain in Memphis for the time being. Shildt said it will be important to see how he responds to throwing on consecutive days, although it’s not a requirement at this point.

Martinez has been working out of the bullpen and could be headed for the same role with the Cardinals. However, he has expressed a desire to start at some point this season.

“It’s a dialogue,” Shildt said. “We appreciate, value and welcome all of our players’ opinions. They have a career they take serious and work hard and we have an obligation to listen to him. We also have an obligation to do what’s best for the St. Louis Cardinals. Sometimes that aligns and sometimes it doesn’t, and at that point an explanation can be followed up with it.”

Wacha on the mound

Michael Wacha will be on the mound Thursday night after giving up five runs and six hits with four walks against the Cubs in his last outing. However, manager Mike Shildt remained positive about Wacha's progress as he prepared to make his seven start.

“We’ve seen Michael by healthy, which is important based on missing over half the year last year,” Shildt said. “He’s been able to demonstrate a good live fastball with good downhill plane, which is important for him. He’s been able to elevate the ball, which adds to his repertoire as well, and his curveball has been good and changeup, which is usually his signature pitch, has been there for him. It’s really just a matter of putting it all together and getting them working at the same time.”

Cards hope to start hitting

The Cardinals will try to snap out of an offensive funk that has seen them score one run in the last two games and 18 over the last seven games when they face Pittsburgh in the first game of a four-game series Thursday night at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals are coming off a shutout loss to Philadelphia. Their only run in the last two games came on a home run by reserve catcher Matt Wieters.

"I think we’ve just got to continue to try a good approach as a group, pass the baton and not try to get too big,” shortstop Paul DeJong said. “Tonight we have a chance to make a statement in the division. We have four games against these guys and we’re looking forward to this battle. Winning two early will help us win the next two. We have to focus on beating the starter tonight and the offense will come.”

Manager Mike Schildt is sticking with his usual lineup, with Kolten Wong returning to second base and Dexter Fowler remaining in center field.

Cardinals' lineup

1. Matt Carpenter, 3B

2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

3. Paul DeJong, SS

4. Marcell Ozuna, LF

5. Jose Martinez, RF

6. Yadier Molina, C

7. Dexter Fowler, CF

8. Kolten Wong, 2B

9. Michael Wacha, P

Pirates' lineup

1. Adam Frazier, 2B

2. Starling Marte, CF

3. Gregory Polanco, RF

4. Josh Bell, 1B

5. Melky Cabrera, LF

6. Francisco Cervelli, C

7. Colin Moran, 3B

8. Cole Tucker, SS

9. Joe Musgrove, P 

The Cardinals (21-16) have fallen to third place in the National League Central after losing six of their past seven games. They trail the first-place Cubs by 1½ games and the second-place Brewers by a half-game. They lead the fourth-place Pirates (17-16) by two games.

Stu Durando is the SLU beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.