M/clear
29°
M/clear
Hi 59° | Lo 26°

Cards Open NLDS With Rout of Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran watches his three-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League division series on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran watches his three-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League division series on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis — Carlos Beltran, Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals gave Pittsburgh a quick reality jolt.

Beltran’s three-run homer sparked a seven-run third inning Thursday and the Cardinals got seven stingy innings from Wainwright to open their NL division series with a 9-1 rout of the Pirates.

“To be able to get out on a good first step and play well today I think is big for our guys confidence-wise,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “Gives us an opportunity to just take some momentum, and momentum is big right now when you talk about a five-game series.”

The first eight Cardinals reached safely in the third to chase A.J. Burnett, saddling the right-hander with the second-shortest outing of his career and putting Game 1 out of reach early.

A sellout crowd roared and then settled in for an easy victory by the NL Central champions, making their third consecutive trip to the postseason.

“Game 164 was rough,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “One of the things we’ve been good at is we don’t overcook things.”

Lance Lynn (15-10) faces Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole (10-7) in Game 2 today.

After a record 20 straight losing seasons, the Pirates are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1992. They entered their first best-of-five division series with plenty of momentum after beating Cincinnati in the wild-card game Tuesday, but Pittsburgh never threatened to rally against Wainwright and finished with only four hits.

Pittsburgh also was sloppy in the field, committing three errors. St. Louis was sharp on defense, with reliever Carlos Martinez turning in the top play by slinging an off-balance throw to first to nip Russell Martin in the eighth.

“What a play!” Matheny mouthed in the dugout.

Third baseman David Freese prevented extra bases in the third with a diving catch on Clint Barmes’ low liner.

Wainwright remained unbeaten in the postseason, going to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 games, five of them starts.

He allowed a run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine without a walk. The only damage came on a homer by Pedro Alvarez to start the fifth.

The right-hander tied for the NL lead with 19 wins this year and was 4-0 in his last five starts.

Dodgers 6, Braves 1

Atlanta — Clayton Kershaw and the L Dodgers opened the playoffs looking intent on ending that quarter-century drought since their last World Series championship.

For Atlanta, another dose of October misery.

Kershaw struck out 12 during seven dominant innings, Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer and the Dodgers beat the bumbling Braves in Game 1 of the NL division series.

The big-money Dodgers haven’t won a Series title since 1988 — by far their longest dry spell since the franchise moved from Brooklyn to Southern California in 1958.

In an interesting twist, Kershaw was born just a few months before that most recent title. If the left-hander keeps pitching the way he did against Atlanta, the Dodgers might have a chance to go all the way again.

Kershaw, who had a 1.83 ERA during the regular season, limited the Braves to Chris Johnson’s run-scoring single with two outs in the fourth. That just seemed to make the pitcher mad — he struck out Andrelton Simmons to end Atlanta’s only serious threat, and the next five Braves hitters for good measure.

Appropriately, Kershaw finished up by striking out the side in the seventh, matching his season high for Ks. He allowed just three hits.

The Braves struck out 15 times in all.

Even though slugger Matt Kemp is out for the playoffs and Andre Ethier is hobbling with an injured ankle, the Dodgers had no trouble piling up runs against Kris Medlen and the Braves.

The Atlanta starter, who came into the playoffs riding a five-game winning streak, gave up nine hits and five runs in four-plus innings. Medlen finally got the hook when he plunked Yasiel Puig with a pitch right between the shoulder blades.

Of course, Medlen would’ve fared better if he’d gotten any help from the guys behind him.

The Braves played some truly atrocious defense, though they were not charged with an error.