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Pirates ride big 1st inning to needed 10-5 win over Cardinals

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates put up seven runs against Lance Lynn in the first and held on for a crucial 10-5 win over the Cardinals Thursday.

Neil Walker hit a one-out triple off the wall in the first, then came home as Andrew McCutchen lined a double to left. McCutchen then scored as Jung-Ho Kang grounded to third and Matt Carpenter airmailed the throw to first. Pedro Alvarez then reached down and drove a Lynn two-seamer way over the wall in center to put the Pirates up 4-0.

The Pirates weren't done, however -- Lynn hit Francisco Cervelli, who moved to second on a soft single by Travis Ishikawa (who was playing left because Starling Marte was out with a bruised hand). Sean Rodriguez whiffed, as he so often does, but that was no problem with offensive juggernaut Francisco Liriano due up. Liriano singled in a run on a grounder to left, and then Gregory Polanco followed with a run-scoring single of his own. That was it for Lynn, but the Pirates tacked on another run on Walker's second hit of the inning.

The Cardinals got two runs back in the first as Liriano had a rough inning, perhaps in part because the top half took so long. Carpenter walked and Randal Grichuk singled, and Jason Heyward walked the bases full two batters later. Then Yadier Molina singled to center. Carpenter and Grichuk scored, but Heyward (normally a good baserunner) did the Pirates a huge favor by getting thrown out at third. Kolten Wong then grounded out.

Liriano settled down after that, and neither team scored until the sixth. Jhonny Peralta and Heyward singled, and Molina walked to load the bases. The Cardinals only managed to score one run on a force out, however, before Liriano got Stephen Piscotty and Peter Bourjos to end the inning.

The Pirates let the Cardinals get uncomfortably close as Joakim Soria struggled through the seventh, however. Carpenter hit a one-out single and moved up on a wild pitch, Grichuk walked, and Peralta brought home a run with a single to center. Heyward singled to load the bases, and Clint Hurdle called on Tony Watson. Watson allowed a sacrifice fly to Molina but otherwise shut the door, then finished off a solid outing by also pitching a 1-2-3 eighth. As Greg Brown noted on the ROOT Sports broadcast, it was the first time since mid-May Watson had pitched more than one inning, and he came up big.

The Bucs gave themselves some breathing room and partially emptied the Busch Stadium seats with a strong ninth inning, however. Mike Morse led off with a single and Polanco walked, and Walker brought home a run with a double to right, his third hit of the game. Seth Maness intentionally walked McCutchen, and Kang grounded into a double play that scored a run. Pinch-hitter Aramis Ramirez then hit a grounder that Wong misread, bringing home another run to put the Pirates up by five.

Mark Melancon then entered in the ninth despite the lead and pitched a 1-2-3 inning as the Bucs escaped St. Louis with a win. The Bucs returned to being six games back of the Cardinals, and they held off the surging Cubs, who beat Milwaukee earlier in the day.