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STL@PIT: Berkman smacks a three-run shot to center

PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals got a solid outing from lefty Jaime Garcia and smacked two home runs en route to a 9-1 victory over the Pirates in front of 39,102 fans on Saturday night at PNC Park.

It was the third straight win for the Cardinals and the third straight loss for the Pirates. The victory moved the Cards into a tie with Milwaukee atop the National League Central, as the Brewers fell to the Giants on Saturday, 4-2.

Garcia tossed 7 1/3 innings and allowed one run on eight hits. He recorded five strikeouts and picked up the win, improving his record to 10-4.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was pleased with the effort from Garcia.

"He's got really good stuff and he really works hard," La Russa said. "And at times you can actually see him grimace out there because he's trying so hard. He's got great pride and it doesn't matter about road or home. He can pitch anywhere."

"It was kind of weird physically," Garcia said. "It wasn't the best I've felt obviously, but it was a good one. I was able to stay in the game and battle and find a way. Obviously they've got a great lineup over there and a great team, a lot of good things going on for them. But we played better today and we were able to hit pretty good. It was definitely a big win for us."

Garcia didn't have his best stuff, but was able to get the job done.

"I had my changeup and my slider working pretty good tonight," Garcia explained. "Some pitch might not be working that day, but you've just got to find a way and find what's working and just keep pitching."

Pirates starter Kevin Correia was roughed up for seven runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander took the loss, falling to 11-8 on the season.

The Cardinals drew first blood in the top of the second inning. Matt Holliday doubled, Lance Berkman drew a walk and Yadier Molina singled in Holliday. Daniel Descalso then singled to right to knock in Berkman, staking the Cards to a 2-0 lead.

Pittsburgh came back in the bottom of the second inning. Matt Diaz doubled and then scampered home on an RBI single by Brandon Wood, slicing the Cardinals lead to 2-1.

St. Louis broke the game open in the top of the fourth inning. Skip Schumaker singled, Jon Jay singled and Albert Pujols continued his assault on Pittsburgh pitching with an RBI single to plate Schumaker. Then with one out, Berkman belted a three-run homer to center field, his 27th of the season. Two batters later Molina stroked his seventh home run of the season, knocking Correia out of the game and giving the Redbirds a 7-1 lead.

Berkman's home run was a crushing blow for the Pirates.

"I think it was a cutter that just got up a little bit," Berkman offered. "He's trying to come in with it and he left it out over the plate. I was just trying to look for something that I could get in the air, and it happened to go out of the park."

"[Molina's] also a good hitter, but it's easy to overlook him because of the guys you've got in that lineup," Correia said. "You've just got to be on your game against that lineup."

"Correia really settled in and was making a bunch of good pitches," La Russa said. "And then the top of the lineup comes up and we had Schumaker come back with a two-strike hit and then Jay sets the table. It was just a bunch of good at-bats, and when you get that crooked number like that then it's up to Garcia to shut em' down. And he did."

The Cardinals added two more runs in the top of the ninth inning against Pirates reliever Jose Veras. Pujols and Nick Punto drew walks, and then David Freese doubled down the right-field line to knock in Pujols. Pinch-hitter Gerald Laird followed that with a groundout, which scored Punto.

Jason Motte pitched 2/3 of an inning and P.J. Walters hurled a scoreless ninth inning to mop things up for the Cardinals.

"It was great; Garcia threw the ball well and offensively we kept adding on runs and putting pressure on them," Berkman said. "It was a complete win and we haven't done a whole lot of that, and I think we're going to."

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