(The Sports Xchange) - Another excellent start from J.A. Happ helped the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 9-3 rout of the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.
In trimming St. Louis' National League Central Division lead to 5-1/2 games, Pittsburgh (80-53) looked nothing like the team who lost three of their last four games.
Happ (8-7) piched seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and striking out eight with no walks.
In improving to 4-1 since being traded from Seattle on July 31, Happ lowered his ERA with the Pirates to 1.57.
"His mix of pitches and his command were very good," manager Clint Hurdle said of Happ.
"The downhill angle on his fastball was very impressive. He's definitely grabbed our attention. He executed very well."
The Pirates scored twice in the first on RBI singles by third baseman Kang Jung Ho and Starling Marte before Marte ripped a two-run double in the fifth for a 4-0 lead, highlighting a 3-for-5, three-RBI game for the left fielder.
That was more than enough for Happ, who retired 15 successive batters after second baseman Kolten Wong lined a single to center in the second inning.
"I was pitching off my fastball and getting ahead of guys," Happ said. "I thought we mixed up our pitches pretty well. I tried to execute as best as I could."
Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez (13-7) gave up seven hits and four runs in five innings, walking three and striking out five.
Martinez's fastball touched 99 mph at times in the first inning, but his location failed him, knocking his pitch count to 100.
"The first inning was a little rough for him," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said of Martinez.
"Two busted bats ended up scoring runs. He actually did a nice job, but he ended up with 36 pitches after the first inning, so it was an uphill battle after that."
It was just the third loss in 12 games for the Cardinals (86-48), who did not move a runner to third base until the eighth, when left fielder Stephen Piscotty doubled home pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds to make it 5-1.
Pittsburgh squashed any ideas of a dramatic rally with four runs in the top of the ninth, capped by a two-run double from pinch-hitter Travis Snider.
(Compiled by Greg Stutchbury)