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Pedro Alvarez stays hot as Pirates take a 2-1 lead over Cardinals in NLDS
Harrison ran for Morneau and moved up when Marlon Byrd walked. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny turned to a lefty in Siegrist to face the left-handed Alvarez. The Pittsburgh slugger tied for the NL lead with 36 homers during the regular season, but hit just .180 against lefties.
“I just knew it was going to be a tough matchup,” Alvarez said. “I’ve seen him a couple of times before. I haven’t had much success. He’s a pitcher with good stuff — great stuff. He threw me a couple of fastballs out over the plate.”
The game was a rare nail-biter between two clubs that spent the summer shadowing each other in the race for the NL Central title. Coming into Sunday, only five of the previous 21 matchups between the two were decided by two runs or less.
After blowouts by each club in St. Louis, there wasn’t much room to breathe in front of a frenzied, black-clad crowd looking for a repeat of Pittsburgh’s giddy 6-2 romp over Cincinnati in the wild-card game last Tuesday.
Martin’s sacrifice fly off reliever Seth Maness in the sixth gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead and turned the game over to Pittsburgh’s “Shark Tank” bullpen, one of the keys to the franchise’s first winning season and playoff berth in a generation.
Tony Watson worked around a one-out single in the seventh before giving way to Melancon.
The Cardinals must win two straight to advance to the NL championship series for the third straight year.
“We’ve been in this situation,” Beltran said. “Last year, I think we were in this situation a lot. So I think we’re fine, man. We want to come here tomorrow, we want to win and hopefully take this series home.”
Pirates starter Francisco Liriano dominated the Cardinals during the regular season, going 3-0 with an 0.75 ERA in three starts against the NL’s highest-scoring team. He was electric against the Reds last Tuesday, shaking off a sinus infection and baffling them with a series of changeups and sliders that ended Cincinnati’s season and manager Dusty Baker’s tenure.
Liriano narrowly escaped damage in the third Sunday when Matt Holliday lined to right with the bases loaded.
The left-hander wasn’t quite as fortunate in the fifth. Jon Jay led off with a single and Pete Kozma followed with a walk. After pitcher Joe Kelly struck out trying to bunt, a double steal set up Beltran’s two-run single.
Kelly welcomed the hostile environment, calling the sea of black-clad fans that awaited him one of the things a kid dreams about.
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