PITTSBURGH (AP) — Andrew McCutchen could get used to the Pittsburgh Pirates being the toast of baseball. Then again, at the moment he doesn't really have a choice.
"You could say we're fresh meat, everybody wants a piece," McCutchen said. "Everybody wants to get in. They want to see what the Pirates are all about."
Pittsburgh provided a glimpse on Sunday, scoring twice in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead for good in a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals that staked the resilient Pirates to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five NL division series.
Charlie Morton is set to start for Pittsburgh in Game 4 on Monday against rookie Michael Wacha. A Pittsburgh victory would send a franchise that's been a laughingstock for the better part of 20 years into the NL championship series.
"This franchise is a great franchise, a franchise that won before," McCutchen said.
And one that's proven it can take a punch. St. Louis slapped around the Pirates in Game 1, pounding ace A.J. Burnett in a 9-1 romp. Two straight Pittsburgh wins have followed, games in which the Pirates never trailed.
St. Louis rallied twice on Sunday, tying it at 3-all on the 16th postseason home run of Carlos Beltran's career, a solo shot off reliever Mark Melancon (1-0) to quiet a crowd that spent the better part of three hours on its feet.
They didn't stay silent for long.
McCutchen led off the eighth with his second hit, a double to left off Carlos Martinez (0-1). But the NL MVP candidate unwisely tried to advance on Justin Morneau's grounder to shortstop and was an easy out at third.
Harrison ran for Morneau and moved up when Marlon Byrd walked. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny turned to a lefty in Kevin Siegrist to face the left-handed Alvarez. The Pittsburgh slugger tied for the NL lead with 36 homers during the regular season, but hit just .180 against lefties.
"I just knew it was going to be a tough matchup," Alvarez said. "I've seen him a couple of times before. I haven't had much success. He's a pitcher with good stuff — great stuff. He threw me a couple of fastballs out over the plate."
One too many, as it turned out, and Alvarez singled between first and second. Martin then fouled off a squeeze bunt before lining a hit to left that gave Grilli more than enough cushion.