ST. LOUIS – Russell Martin wanted a better fate for his starting pitcher and helped deliver a happier ending.
The Pittsburgh Pirates catcher hit a two-run home run to highlight a four-run seventh inning and the Pirates rallied to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 on Saturday. The comeback gave A.J. Burnett (2-2) his second victory over St. Louis in 10 days.
“It was great, man. I was really happy about that,” said Martin, who went 2-for-4 with a double. “A.J.’s been pitching his butt off all year and he hasn’t had too many wins under his belt and he should. It seemed like it was going to go like kind of how it’s been but we were able to muster up some wins and find a way to do it for him.
“It’s definitely gratifying. It feels great.”
Burnett gave up two runs and five hits in six innings. His six strikeouts expanded his team record for the month of April to a league-leading 48. Burnett threw seven shutout innings in a 5-0 win over St. Louis on April 17.
He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in his six starts this season, giving up three just twice. The Pirates haven’t backed him at the plate, however, providing him an average of 2.33 runs.
Burnett used 111 pitches earning an exit earlier than he wanted but he was pleased with his results and the victory.
“It feels good just because the fact that these guys keep going,” he said. “Russ started us off with the homer. We’re never out of it. We’re never down. There’s no negative thoughts.
“As a starter, I’m going to try to keep doing that until (manager) Clint (Hurdle) takes me out.”
St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook left after six innings with a 2-0 lead in search of his 100th career victory. He struck out a season-high six and scattered six hits to lower his ERA to 0.98 in five starts.
The Pirates had three consecutive hits against reliever Joe Kelly (0-1) to lead off the seventh and were aided by a hit by pitch and a walk to score four runs. Martin’s fifth homer of the season drove in Pedro Alvarez to tie the score at 2, Andrew McCutchen walked with the bases loaded and Garrett Jones grounded in Starling Marte.
“They just couldn’t get it done today,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of his bullpen. “Any time you lose a game in the last third, it can be extremely frustrating. When the starter gives you a great chance like that, you hate to see it slip away.”
The Pirates added their fifth run on a double by Martin and a sacrifice fly from Gaby Sanchez. Martin has a hit in 10 of his past 11 games.
Pittsburgh had scored just one run in the first 15 innings of the series before their four-run outburst. The beleaguered St. Louis Cardinals bullpen had its ERA balloon to 5.62. The Cardinals have given up 39 runs after the sixth inning this season.
“Honestly, I didn’t know they were struggling like that,” Martin said. “All of those guys have tremendous arms and they’ve got good stuff. It’s going to even out for them, I’m sure.
“The difference is, when they’re struggling, it’s just their minds that are struggling. Maybe their focus is just a bit off. When you get a guy whose focus is off he tends to make more mistakes and that’s when you have to capitalize.”
Jason Grilli surrendered his first run of the season on an RBI double from Carlos Beltran in the ninth but earned his 10th save in 10 tries.
St. Louis jumped to a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and sixth. Pete Kozma’s two-out single up the middle scored Jon Jay. Matt Carpenter and Beltran singled to start the first. Carpenter scored on Matt Holliday’s groundout.
Westbrook’s performance also lowered the Cardinals starters ERA to a league-best 2.08.
He allowed a runner to reach second base once, though the Pirates went in order just one time.
Westbrook has struggled throughout his career against the Pirates, entering with a 1-7 record and a 5.28 ERA. It could have been worse. He gave up four runs and six hits in two innings April 16 before rained forced the game’s postponement.
“I felt like I was throwing the ball pretty well, had a good sinker. I was able to get some early outs and stayed out of trouble for the most part.”
Pittsburgh OF Travis Snider was scratched from the starting lineup with discomfort on his left side. He’s listed as day to day. … Pittsburgh INF Neil Walker took six stitches on his right index finger after Cardinals SS Pete Kozma stepped on him while turning a double play Friday. He’s listed day-to-day but is likely out for at least a week. … With a single in the third, Pittsburgh OF Jose Tabata has now hit safely in 20 of his 22 career games at Busch Stadium. … Jay stole his first base of the year in the fourth. He led the team with 19 in 2012. … Westbrook entered the game with eight strikeouts. … Cardinals starters have all 14 of the team’s victories. … Cardinals INF Daniel Descalso went 0-2 with two walks and is hitless in his last 15 at-bats. … Cardinals INF Jermaine Curtis made his Major League debut and struck out in the ninth as a pinch hitter for Matt Carpenter who was pulled with a mild oblique strain on his left side.