by R.B. Fallstrom
AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) – Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates played like veterans.
Cole gave up two hits in six dominant innings and had an RBI in his postseason debut, Pedro Alvarez homered for the second straight day and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-1 Friday to even their NL division series at a game apiece.
After taking advantage of several Cardinals mistakes, the Pirates head home for Game 3 on Sunday. Wild-card game winner Francisco Liriano faces Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly.
Roles were reversed from the Cardinals’ 9-1 win in the opener, with the Pirates showing poise in their first postseason appearance since 1992 and St. Louis looking tentative in the field.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, who hasn’t lasted long enough to qualify for the victory in any of his three career postseason starts, yielded five runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings.
He found trouble early. Alvarez doubled in the second on a fly ball that was misjudged by center fielder Jon Jay and he scored on Cole’s single to put the Pirates ahead – eighth-place hitter Jordy Mercer was walked intentionally ahead of Cole. Alvarez then hit a 418-foot two-run homer in the third.
Third baseman David Freese dropped Marlon Byrd’s pop fly for an error in gusting wind in the seventh inning, leading to a run.
Cole faced the Cardinals for the first time and left most of them shaking their heads, striking out five and walking one. After allowing Carlos Beltran’s double with one out in the first, he retired 11 straight before Yadier Molina led off the fifth with his third career postseason homer.
Relying on a fastball that peaked at 99 mph on the stadium radar gun and one that TBS had at 100, Cole had hitters helpless at times even without shadows that benefited pitchers early in Game 1. He retired the side in order on seven pitches in the third, finishing by striking out Lynn and leadoff man Matt Carpenter. The 22-year-old rookie didn’t allow a ball out of the infield in the fourth.
Pirates pitchers totaled 10 RBIs during the season and Cole had five of them, including two in his final start.
Lynn is 0-2 the last two postseason, allowing nine earned runs in 12 2-3 innings. He faced the Giants in the NL championship series last fall, the longest lasting 3 2-3 innings.
Lynn was manager Mike Matheny’s choice for Game 2 ahead of rookies Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha, the decision based on the right-hander’s strong September and 9-3 record at home.
Wacha (4-1, 2.78) will oppose Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.26) in Game 4 Monday.
Lynn made it to the fifth for the first time, but just barely. Miller warmed up in the third and Lynn was yanked with one out after back-to-back doubles by Justin Morneau and Byrd that put the Pirates up 5-0, followed by a four-pitch walk to Alvarez that gave reliever Seth Maness a little more time to warm up.
Miller worked the eighth and gave up a homer to Starling Marte.
Liriano is 4-0 with a 1.16 career ERA in four starts against the Cardinals. He dominated in three starts this year, including a complete game in St. Louis, and allowed 10 hits in 22 innings with 20 strikeouts. He was the winner Tuesday night against Cincinnati in front of a raucous, black-clad cloud crowd in Pittsburgh that was celebrating the Pirates’ return to the postseason.
Kelly (10-5, 2.69) thrived as a fill-in starter for the second straight season and won eight straight decisions.
NOTES: Injured Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter threw the first pitch to his son, Sam, and was accompanied to the mound by his daughter, Ava. … Daniel Descalso made the last out in the second inning and the first out in the Cardinals’ NL division series-record seven-run third in Game 1. … Molina’s last postseason homer came in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS against the Mets.