ST. LOUIS — With one swing, Carlos Beltran burnished his already glowing postseason resume and showed the Pittsburgh Pirates that postseason baseball is tougher away from noisy PNC Park.
Beltran’s three-run homer in the bottom of the third inning Thursday jump-started a seven-run rally that lifted the St. Louis Cardinals to a 9-1 rout of Pittsburgh in the opener of the best-of-five National League Division Series.
It was the 15th homer in postseason play for Beltran and his seventh in 51 Division Series at-bats. He jumped all over a hanging 2-1 breaking ball from A.J. Burnett, launching it 443 feet into the second deck in right field.
That brought a sellout crowd of 45,693 to its feet, derisively chanting “A.J., A.J.” at the Pirates starter, one of just six players possessing postseason experience on this Pittsburgh roster. It was just part of a forgettable inning for Burnett.
After yielding a double to Matt Holliday, Burnett, who walked pitcher Adam Wainwright to start the inning and gave up a single to Matt Carpenter before Beltran’s blast, lost all control.
Burnett plunked Matt Adams with a breaking ball, then walked Yadier Molina and Jon Jay, forcing Holliday home to make it 4-0. David Freese grounded a two-run single down the right field line, and Jay scored when Marlon Byrd’s throw toward first hit Freese and rolled toward the St. Louis dugout.
The errant toss was one of three errors for Pittsburgh, which played almost flawlessly in a 6-2 wild-card win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night in its first playoff appearance since 1992. It was also the end for Burnett, who was charged with seven runs on six hits, four walks and a hit batter in two-plus innings.
Clint Barmes’ throwing error in the fifth brought home the eighth run, and Andrew McCutchen’s fielding error on Molina’s sixth-inning double let Adams score from first.
Wainwright dominated the Pittsburgh hitters, allowing just three hits and one run in seven innings. He struck out nine and did not issue a walk. Wainwright didn’t permit a baserunner until McCutchen singled up the middle with two outs in the fourth.
Pedro Alvarez blasted a leadoff homer in the fifth to account for Pittsburgh’s only run.
Game 2 of the series is Friday, with rookie Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.22 ERA) going for the Pirates against Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97).
NOTES: The Cardinals announced that RHP Joe Kelly would start opposite Pirates LHP Francisco Liriano when the series moves to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Sunday. Both pitchers earned three wins against the opponent this year. … The teams went in different directions with their postseason rosters. While Pittsburgh opted for 11 pitchers and 14 position players, the Cardinals decided to employ 12 pitchers and 13 position players. … St. Louis claimed OF Joey Butler off waivers from the Texas Rangers. Butler, 27, received his first major league call-up Aug. 5. He went 4-for-12 with two doubles and an RBI in eight games with the Rangers.