ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals started their pivotal three-game series with the Pirates with a bang on Friday night, taking a 5-0 lead after three innings and adding seven in the seventh as the first nine batters all got hits, and won, 12-8. The win moved them a half-game out of first in the NL Central.
The Cardinals led 12-1 after seven before allowing four runs in the eighth and three in the ninth as the game dragged toward the four-hour mark. The Cardinals had to bring closer Edward Mujica in to get the final out in a game they should have closed out easily.
Matt Carpenter went two for three with a walk, scored three runs and tied the Busch Stadium III record for hits in a season, upping his total to 98. Yadier Molina hit a three-run homer in the seventh, four pitches after almost getting hit by Pirates reliever Bryan Morris had knocked him down with a high and tight pitch. An inning later, Cards reliever John Axford, and, by rule, Cards manager Mike Matheny, were ejected after Axford hit Pirates pinch hitter Tony Sanchez with a pitch.
The Cardinals did what the Pirates couldn't, getting hits with runners in scoring position. The Pirates stranded 10 runners in the first six innings, including five in the first two innings.
Carpenter started the two-run first with a walk, coming around to score along with Jon Jay on a single to center by Carlos Beltran. He tripled to start the third, where he was followed with consecutive doubles by Jon Jay, Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran.
In the seventh, the Cardinals put the game away, as the Cardinals made a lap of the lineup with everyone getting a hit. In order: a double by Daniel Descalso, single by Pete Kozma (snapping an 0 for 33 run), double by Carpenter, single by Jay, double by Holliday, single by Beltran, homer by Molina, single by Matt Adams, single by Tony Cruz.
By the end of the seventh, most of the Cardinals starters were out of the game.
Joe Kelly started and pitched out of early trouble and improved to 8-3 by allowing just one run in six innings. He left the bases loaded in the first, getting Pedro Alvarez to ground out to end the inning, and struck out Neil Walker with runners on first and second in the second.
The Pirates scored four runs in the eighth, capped by a two-run homer off Jake Westbrook, who came in to relieve Axford. A throwing error by Kozma extended the inning.
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