PITTSBURGH (AP) — It took only one batter for Michael Wacha to realize his second time pitching at PNC Park wasn't going to be nearly as good as the first.
Jose Tabata's first-inning line drive struck the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander on the left ankle and ricocheted off his right shin for an infield single. That was a contrast to Game 4 of last year's National League Division Series, when Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in beating the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Wacha wound up with a no-decision and hot-hitting Neil Walker had three hits, including a go-ahead three-run home run in the seventh inning, and drove in four runs to help the Pirates beat the Cardinals 6-4.
"Wacha is so good, as we found out last year," said Walker, who has reached base in 22 of his last 40 plate appearances. "He throws hard and you've got to shorten up your swing and put the ball in play. That's the best way to approach him because you're usually not going to do too much against him."
While Walker's first two hits were against Wacha, his seventh homer came off Carlos Martinez (0-2) and rallied the Pirates from a 4-3 deficit for their third straight victory. Jordy Mercer and pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez led off the inning with singles and were bunted up a base by Jose Tabata before Walker hit a drive into the right-field stands.
"Martinez is as tough as Wacha, but he hung a slider and I was able to put a good swing on it," Walker said. "I was surprised. The guy has such great stuff that you're not thinking that you're going to hit a home run in that situation. It was huge."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said it didn't appear that Martinez got the home run pitch "where he wanted it."
Wacha lasted five innings and gave up three runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and one walk as his winless streak reach five starts. He said getting hit by the line drive did not affect his performance.
"The shin had nothing to do with it," Wacha said.
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