ST. LOUIS — Carlos Beltran’s three-run homer sparked a seven-run third inning and the St. Louis Cardinals got seven stingy innings from Adam Wainwright, delivering a reality jolt to the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 9-1 rout Thursday in their NL division series opener.
The first eight Cardinals reached safely in the third to chase A.J. Burnett, saddling the right-hander with the second-shortest outing of his career and putting Game 1 out of reach early. A sellout crowd roared early and then settled in for an easy victory.
Lance Lynn (15-10) faces Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole (10-7) in Game 2 Friday.
The Pirates ended a 21-year postseason drought and entered their first best-of-five division series with apparent momentum after beating Cincinnati in the wild-card game Tuesday. They never threatened to rally against the Cardinals’ ace and finished with only four hits.
Pittsburgh also was sloppy in the field, committing three errors. St. Louis was sharp on defense, with reliever Carlos Martinez turning in the top play by slinging an off-balance throw to first to nip Russell Martin.
“What a play!” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny mouthed in the dugout.
Wainwright remained unbeaten in the postseason, going to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 games, five of them starts.
Wainwright allowed a run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine without a walk. The only damage coming on a homer by Pedro Alvarez to start the fifth.
The right-hander tied for the NL lead with 19 wins this year and was 4-0 in his last five starts.
Wainwright also started the Cardinals’ big burst with a leadoff, full-count walk.
Beltran, who has never reached the World Series, reprised his role as one of the game’s greatest playoff sluggers. His 443-foot drive put St. Louis ahead and was the second-longest shot by a left-handed batter at 8-year-old Busch Stadium.
Beltran has 15 home runs, 10 doubles and 28 RBIs in 35 postseason games. He also has scored 40 runs and stolen 11 bases.
His 13 career RBIs against Burnett are the most of any player.
Beltran’s homer got the Cardinals going, and Jon Jay later walked with the bases loaded. David Freese added a two-run single that cleared the bases when right fielder Marlon Byrd’s throw to the plate deflected away.
While the Pirates may have had trouble at the plate and in the field with the shadows, the late-afternoon start didn’t seem to bother the Cardinals.
NOTES: Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon threw the first pitch in the dirt, with reserve Shane Robinson making a nice scoop. … St. Louis OF Matt Holliday walked and doubled his first two trips and had reached base safely in nine straight plate appearances before grounding out to start the fourth. … The Cardinals claimed OF Joey Butler on waivers, three days after he was designated for assignment by the Rangers. Butler spent most of the year at Triple-A Round Rock, batting .291 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs.