ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals were on the verge of walloping a Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher for the second straight game. Then they started swinging and missing.
Erik Bedard avoided a fate like that of A.J. Burnett, who gave up 12 runs in 2 2-3 innings a day earlier. The lefty survived a rocky first inning and struck out a season-high 11, including a team-record seven in a row, and the Pittsburgh Pirates set a club mark by fanning 17 batters Thursday in a 6-3 win.
"I don't know if we'd have knocked him out, their bullpen had had a lot of use already," manager Mike Matheny said. "But we were one pitch away from really making something happen.
"You look up later and you realize, 'Hey, it seems like we're all over this guy and it's 2-0.'"
The Cardinals outscored the Pirates 7-0 in the first inning in the series, and got off to another fast start against Bedard after doubles by Rafael Furcal, David Freese and Allen Craig made it 2-0.
St. Louis had just two hits the next six innings and came up empty with the bases loaded twice, with Matt Holliday hitting a comebacker to end the second and Craig grounding out against Juan Cruz to end the seventh.
"Part of it is you let a pitcher off the hook, he gets through a jam, he finds a rhythm," Matheny said. "We had a lot of chases on the breaking ball. He really slowed down the tempo, kept us off-balance all day."
Bedard (2-4) was pulled after five innings. Pittsburgh relievers kept piling up the strikeouts — the 17 Ks were the most by Pittsburgh in a nine-inning game since 1900, the team said in citing research by the Elias Sports Bureau.
The strikeouts were the most by the Pirates in any game since they fanned 18 Cubs over 20 innings in 1980.
The last time the Cardinals whiffed so often in a nine-inning game was 1989, when they struck out 18 times against the Cubs. St. Louis struck out 19 times in a 20-inning loss to the Mets in 2010.
Pedro Alvarez hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth as Pittsburgh avoided a sweep.
Clint Barmes had a pair of RBI doubles for the Pirates, who completed a 3-4 trip and will have 18 of the next 25 at home to end May. Jose Tabata, a career .343 hitter against St. Louis, added three hits and a steal.
Jake Westbrook (3-2) lost to Pittsburgh for the second time in three starts, giving up four runs in 6 1-3 innings.