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PIT@STL: Beltran clubs two homers, drives in seven

ST. LOUIS -- A little more than three hours before the Cardinals were to face the Pirates, Carlos Beltran stood among a throng of media just in front of the team's dugout. There, he attempted to dissect all that had been going wrong.

"Hitting is a feeling," said Beltran, speaking of his 3-for-32 skid. "Only I know when it's right. Right now, I don't feel right."

Not only is Beltran apparently just fine again, but he'll have to accept that he's not the only one who knows. Beltran treated 35,987 on hand at Busch Stadium to a career-best seven RBI performance as the Cardinals blasted the Pirates, 12-3, on Wednesday, one night after scoring 10 runs. Beltran drove home six of those runs with homers.

"This game can be like that," Beltran said. "That's why I call it 'funny game.' [Tuesday] I came with the mentality of going out there to have good at-bats and I strike out three times. Today I came with the same mentality and I got good results. You have to continue to come to the ballpark and work hard and continue to make adjustment after adjustment until you find yourself at the plate."

Beltran's fortunes began to turn during his pregame batting practice and cage work. He felt encouraged with his timing and, to use his words, how he was "letting the ball come to [him] instead of going to the ball."

The adjustment carried over.

Beltran belted a first-pitch three-run homer off A.J. Burnett in the first to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead only six pitches into Burnett's night. The first three hitters had singled.

The Cardinals added three more in the second, with RBI singles by Matt Holliday and Beltran pushing across two. A five-run third, highlighted by another Beltran three-run homer, drove Burnett from the game. The 12 runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings was a far cry from the seven shutout innings Burnett pitched against the Cards on April 21.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it had been more than 80 years since a Pirates pitcher gave up 12 runs in a game.

"I didn't make any adjustments," Burnett said. "I think they made adjustments early. Obviously, good teams are going to do that. I was up all night. I couldn't get anything down."

Beltran was awarded the second home run with the assistance of instant replay. The ball he launched to center field bounced off the top of the padding and was initially ruled a double by second-base umpire Dale Scott. Minutes later, the call was overturned.

That gave Beltran his 31st career multihomer game and snapped a string of 11 consecutive games without a long ball for the right fielder. He also passed David Freese for the team lead in the category, as Beltran now has seven.

Manager Mike Matheny noted before the game that he felt Beltran was "real close to taking off on a tear again," despite the outfielder's recent offensive woes. Beltran responded by recording more hits on Wednesday than he had in his last nine games combined.

"I think the one person that wasn't even beginning to panic is Carlos," Matheny said. "He knows what he's doing, and he goes about it in the right way."

His seven-RBI game was the first by a Cardinal since Albert Pujols on April 11, 2009, against the Astros. To put it in further perspective, only two Pirates players have seven RBIs this season. Beltran added a fifth-inning single, giving him his 21st-career four-hit game.

"Days like this don't come every day," Beltran said. "I'm just glad to be able to go out there and have a day like today."

In all, the Cardinals collected 17 hits, one more than their previous season high. The first four hitters in the starting lineup finished a combined 11-for-14 with 10 runs scored and 10 RBIs. Holliday had a pair of RBI hits and reached base three times. Since enduring his own April funk, he has eight hits and seven RBIs in his 17 at-bats.

All this offense managed to overshadow a night in which Lance Lynn tossed another gem. He and Tampa Bay's James Shields each notched their fifth wins on Wednesday, making them the Majors' first pitchers to hit that mark. While Shields did it in six starts, Lynn has now won all five of his.

Any significance to that?

"It means we have five wins when I'm pitching, so that's good," Lynn answered. "All I'm trying to do is help us win when I'm out there."

After allowing a pair of second-inning hits and one run, Lynn retired 15 straight. That string was snapped when he issued a two-out walk in the seventh. Garrett Jones followed with a single to end Lynn's night. The 24-year-old righty walked off the field to a standing ovation, though he was visibly irked by allowing those last two baserunners.

Lynn was charged with two runs after an inherited runner scored against Marc Rzepczynski. That bumped his season ERA up slightly to 1.60, though it still ranks seventh-best in the NL. Lynn also struck out another six on Wednesday, increasing his season total to 30.

"He's mentally tough," Matheny said of Lynn. "I've seen guys get a lead like that and have trouble finishing it off. I think he was just following along what we've been preaching, and that is one pitch at a time."

With the win, the Cardinals have won eight of nine series this year. The club has outscored opponents, 60-19, in the first three innings, and is 16-2 in games where they have outhit the other team. The Cards have scored 51 of their 135 runs via home runs.

"When everybody in our lineup is going good, we're as good as anybody in baseball," said Matt Carpenter, who had a three-hit night. "There's not an easy out in that lineup."

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