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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- David Backes had a goal and assist in the first period to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday in the season opener for both teams.
The Blues scored three times in the first 9:45 to jump in front 3-0 and chase Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves for the Blues and improved to 9-3-3 against the Predators.
Backes, Vladimir Sobotka, T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen scored for St. Louis, which was 2 of 4 on the power play.
St. Louis has won four of its past five home openers.
Nashville, which missed the playoffs last season, is 7-7-1 in season openers.
Backes scored from close range at 2:05, just three seconds after Matt Cullen was sent off for tripping. Backes pounced on a shot from the blue line by Alex Pietrangelo, who added two first-period assists.
Sobotka tallied on a break along the left wing to make it 2-0. He went by Kevin Klein and sent a backhand behind Rinne.
Oshie converted on a pass from Steen to push the lead to 3-0. Rinne was pulled after giving up three goals on six shots.
Nashville climbed within 3-2 on goals by Mike Fisher and David Legwand.
Steen scored a power-play goal at 11:16 of the second period to stretch the lead to 4-2.
NOTES: The game began at 7:48 p.m. local time, 43 minutes after the final out of the Cardinals' 9-1 win over Pittsburgh in the opening game of the NL Division Series. The Blues moved the start time back 30 minutes to allow fans to make the five-block trip from Busch Stadium. ... St. Louis has made the playoffs in 37 of its 46 seasons. ... Nashville coach Barry Trotz is the longest-tenured head coach with the same team with 1,115 games. ... St. Louis LW Brenden Morrow fixed his work-visa problems earlier in the day and was able to play. ... Blues coach Ken Hitchcock improved to 10-3-4 in season openers. ... Nashville defenseman Seth Jones, the No. 4 overall pick in last year's draft, made his debut. He is the son of former NBA journeyman Popeye Jones.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Carlos Beltran, Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals gave Pittsburgh a quick reality jolt.
Beltran's three-run homer sparked a seven-run third inning Thursday and the Cardinals got seven stingy innings from Wainwright to open their NL division series with a 9-1 rout of the Pirates.
"To be able to get out on a good first step and play well today I think is big for our guys confidence-wise," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "Gives us an opportunity to just take some momentum, and momentum is big right now when you talk about a five-game series."
The first eight Cardinals reached safely in the third to chase A.J. Burnett, saddling the right-hander with the second-shortest outing of his career and putting Game 1 out of reach early.
A sellout crowd roared and then settled in for an easy victory by the NL Central champions, making their third consecutive trip to the postseason.
"Game 164 was rough," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "One of the things we've been good at is we don't overcook things."
Lance Lynn (15-10) faces Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole (10-7) in Game 2 on Friday.
After a record 20 straight losing seasons, the Pirates are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1992. They entered their first best-of-five division series with plenty of momentum after beating Cincinnati in the wild-card game Tuesday, but Pittsburgh never threatened to rally against Wainwright and finished with only four hits.
Pittsburgh also was sloppy in the field, committing three errors. St. Louis was sharp on defense, with reliever Carlos Martinez turning in the top play by slinging an off-balance throw to first to nip Russell Martin in the eighth.
"What a play!" Matheny mouthed in the dugout.
Third baseman David Freese prevented extra bases in the third with a diving catch on Clint Barmes' low liner.
Wainwright remained unbeaten in the postseason, going to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 games, five of them starts.
He allowed a run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine without a walk. The only damage came on a homer by Pedro Alvarez to start the fifth.
The right-hander tied for the NL lead with 19 wins this year and was 4-0 in his last five starts. He thrives on expectations.
"I'd love to be that guy," Wainwright said. "It's important to have somebody go out there that you can count on for sure."
Wainwright also started the Cardinals' big burst with a leadoff, full-count walk.
Beltran, who has never reached the World Series, reprised his role as one of the game's greatest playoff sluggers. His 443-foot drive to the distant second deck in right field put St. Louis ahead and was the second-longest shot by a left-handed batter at 8-year-old Busch Stadium.
"I almost got caught up in the moment," said Wainwright, who had a perfect view from second base. "I threw my hands up in the air as soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone.
"Then I realized I had to run."
Beltran has 15 home runs, 10 doubles and 28 RBIs in 35 postseason games. He also has scored 40 runs and stolen 11 bases.
Leadoff man Matt Carpenter called Beltran "Mr. October."
"He's like our secret weapon when it comes to the postseason. He steps up every time," Carpenter said. "Some guys just have a knack for a big game and he's one of them."
Beltran's 13 career RBIs against Burnett are the most of any player.
Beltran's homer got the Cardinals going, and Jon Jay later walked with the bases loaded. Freese added a two-run single that cleared the bases when right fielder Marlon Byrd's throw to the plate deflected off Freese's leg for an error.
Burnett was 3-1 against the Cardinals this season but has gotten rocked in his last two visits to St. Louis, also giving up five runs in three innings in early September. In five outings at Busch Stadium the last two seasons he has a 15.50 ERA.
"Hopefully, we can turn it around and give me a chance to get that ball again," Burnett said. "I was not able to repeat a single delivery all day, that's the bottom line."
Hurdle was non-committal on whether Burnett would get the ball if the Pirates make it to Game 5, again in St. Louis.
"I do believe that he's capable of going out and throwing a gem the next time he's out there, wherever that may be," Hurdle said.
While the Pirates may have had trouble at the plate and in the field with the shadows, the late-afternoon start didn't seem to bother the Cardinals.
"Everybody was seeing the ball good today," rookie Matt Adams said.
NOTES: Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon threw the first pitch in the dirt, with reserve Shane Robinson making a nice scoop. ... St. Louis OF Matt Holliday walked and doubled his first two trips and had reached base safely in nine straight plate appearances before grounding out to start the fourth. ... The Cardinals claimed OF Joey Butler on waivers, three days after he was designated for assignment by the Rangers. Butler spent most of the year at Triple-A Round Rock, batting .291 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates are riding high after their first postseason victory in 21 years. They're confident they can beat anybody, anywhere.
A few hours after defeating Cincinnati in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night, the Pirates touched down in St. Louis. They're about to face another familiar foe in an unfamiliar month when they take on the NL Central champion Cardinals in a best-of-five division series.
"We know them, they know us," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "There won't be any ball tricks, I hope. No Statue of Liberty plays."
A.J. Burnett, set to start the series opener Thursday, was a part of three New York Yankees teams that made it to October. He said Wednesday there's a sense of euphoria with this experience that was lacking before.
"I guess the main thing is, over in New York, it's expected every year, you know?" Burnett said. "You tend to get in there a couple of weeks before the season ends. And this one was more of a `Shock the world, we're going to do it, we made it!'"
The Pirates won the season series 10-9, but the Cardinals overtook them for the division lead with a four-game sweep at home in early September. St. Louis also has quite an advantage in postseason experience, with several holdovers from the 2011 World Series championship team and from last year, too, when St. Louis fell one win shy of a second straight pennant.
The Cardinals earned some time off after winning six in a row to end the season. They won their first NL Central crown since 2009 and secured home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
Their .330 average with runners in scoring position was the majors' best dating to 1974, when the statistic was first used. So far, they've done fine without injured Allen Craig, who missed almost all of September and isn't expected back from a left mid-foot sprain until at least the NL championship series.
"We played really well most of the year minus a couple of dips here and there that every team has," said Matt Holliday, who batted .378 over the final month to finish at .300. "I'd say, just try to roll that momentum into the postseason."
Adam Wainwright has to like this matchup, too. St. Louis' ace will pitch the opener and would also be available on full rest for a possible deciding Game 5. He went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh this season.
Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) got rocked for 15 runs over eight innings in consecutive starts against the Reds. One of them he labeled, "the worst start of my career," before rebounding in the win that put the Cardinals in first place to stay. He was 4-0 in his final five starts, working seven or more innings in all of them except for a tuneup his last time out.
"Well, aside from Clayton Kershaw this year, I'd argue that you could look at any single pitcher in the history of the game and they're going to have a bad game or two in the course of 35 starts," Wainwright said.
"I didn't need to do anything different. I just had a bad day."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny described Wainwright, the third pitcher in franchise history to lead the league in wins twice, as a "fierce competitor."
"All in all, a Cy Young-caliber season," Matheny said. "We're not afraid to put him on the mound against anybody."
Burnett (10-11, 3.30 ERA) is 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA in his career against the Cardinals, but the last time he faced them he gave up five runs in three innings - his shortest outing of the year. In two appearances at Busch Stadium, he allowed 12 runs in 13 1-3 innings.
"It's just execution, that's all it is," Burnett said. "It's a great lineup over there. You can't make too many mistakes because they'll capitalize on them.
"The good ones I have limited those and the ones that got me, I haven't been able to execute."
The Cardinals haven't announced a starter after Lance Lynn, who will face rookie Gerrit Cole in Game 2 on Friday. Matheny has three strong candidates in Joe Kelly and rookies Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha. The manager said Miller and Wacha would be available in the bullpen for Game 1.
Miller led all rookies with 15 wins this year, Wacha was one out shy of a no-hitter in his final regular-season start and Kelly was 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA.
Hurdle said Francisco Liriano, the winner in the wild-card game, will start Game 3 on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Alex Cobb dodged trouble for nearly seven innings and the Tampa Bay Rays pitched their way to another must-have win on the road, beating the Cleveland Indians 4-0 on Wednesday night in the AL wild-card game.
Cobb, who missed a chunk of the regular season after he was hit in the head by a line drive, quieted a thundering Cleveland crowd and ended the Indians' unexpected season.
Delmon Young homered in the third inning off rookie Danny Salazar as the Rays, playing in their third city over four days, advanced to face the AL East champion Boston Red Sox in the division series starting Friday.
Cobb's comeback in August from his frightening injury helped stabilize the Rays, who have spent the past two weeks winning crucial games to make the postseason for the fourth time in six years.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates went 21 years between playoff games. The wait will be significantly shorter this time around.
Russell Martin homered twice, Francisco Liriano was dominant for seven innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates roared past Cincinnati for a 6-2 victory in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night.
In front of a black-clad crowd savoring its first postseason game since 1992, Marlon Byrd also connected and Andrew McCutchen had two hits and reached base four times for Pittsburgh.
"We're for real," McCutchen said. "We're definitely for real."
Liriano scattered four hits for the Pirates, who will face St. Louis in Game 1 of the NL division series Thursday. Liriano struck out five and walked one to win the first playoff game of his career.
"We didn't talk about one and done, we talked about one and run," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Win one and run to St. Louis."
Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto struggled in his third start since coming off the disabled list last month. Cueto gave up four runs in 3 1-3 innings and appeared rattled by a raucous ballpark that taunted him by chanting his name.
The 36-year-old Byrd, acquired by the Pirates in late August from the New York Mets, celebrated the first postseason at bat of his 12-year career - 1,250 games - by sending Cueto's fastball into the seats to give the Pirates the lead. The shot sent another jolt through an already electric crowd, which began singing "Cue-to, Cue-to" in unison when Martin stepped in.
"This is 20 years of waiting. You're seeing it all come out in one night," Martin said. "Hopefully we can keep this atmosphere till late October."
Martin sent a drive into the bleachers in left field. The Reds never recovered, ending a 90-win season with a six-game losing streak.
Three of those losses came against Pittsburgh at Cincinnati in the final series of the season that determined the site of the win-or-die game.
Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker backed Cueto before the game, saying his ace "thrives on this environment." Maybe, but the right-hander never looked comfortable in front of the largest crowd in PNC Park history, a place where Cueto has dominated.
Cueto, who came in 8-2 at the ballpark by the Allegheny River, even lost his grip on the ball while standing on the mound.
A moment later, he lost his grip on the game.
Martin's 405-foot shot to left-center gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead and all the momentum Liriano would require.
Signed on the cheap in the offseason after a mediocre 2012 split between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, Liriano has been reborn in Pittsburgh. He went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA during the regular season, his devastating slider nearly unhittable against left-handers.
The Reds proved no match. Joey Votto went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. Jay Bruce produced an RBI single in the fourth but Cincinnati never really threatened on a night baseball officially returned to Pittsburgh after a 20-year trek through purgatory.
Shin-Soo Choo homered in the eighth, a drive to right field that was upheld by video review.
Pittsburgh's 94-win regular season reignited a relationship sullied by years of mismanagement and miserable play. When the gates opened two hours before the first pitch, fans - most of them dressed in black at the urging of MVP candidate McCutchen - sprinted to their seats in anticipation of the club's first postseason game since Atlanta's Sid Bream slid into home ahead of Barry Bonds' throw in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the 1992 National League championship series.
The victory sent the Braves to the World Series and the Pirates into an abyss it took an entire generation to escape.
The first step came with victory No. 82 on Sept. 9. The next came two weeks later when a win over the Chicago Cubs assured a wild-card spot. The most thrilling yet lifted the team with the 26th-highest payroll in the majors ($73.6 million) into a showdown with baseball royalty.
The Reds, meanwhile, head into an offseason that could be eventful. Baker has led Cincinnati to the playoffs in three of the last four years but the Reds failed to advance each time. They fell to the San Francisco Giants in five games - after leading 2-0 - in the division series in 2012 and were swept in the same round by Philadelphia in 2010.
This time, they didn't even make it that far. Cincinnati spent most of the season as the third team in a three-way race with the Pirates and the Cardinals for the NL Central title.
Cueto, who made three different trips to the disabled list this season with a strained lat, was pressed into service when projected starter Mat Latos discovered bone chips in his right (throwing) elbow.
At the time, it seemed like an upgrade. It wasn't. The Pirates made it 3-0 on sacrifice fly in the third by Pedro Alvarez and Cueto was pulled when Starling Marte doubled with one out in the fourth. Marte sprinted home on local boy Neil Walker's double off reliever Sean Marshall and Walker scored on a fielder's choice by Byrd to make it 5-1.
When Martin hit a drive to left off Logan Ondrusek in the seventh, the party seemingly unthinkable for a team that lost 105 games in 2010 began. Martin's long ball marked only the second multihomer playoff game in team history. Bob Robertson hit three in Game 2 of the 1971 NLCS.
NOTES: Martin is the first catcher to homer for three different teams in the postseason. He previously hit playoff homers for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 and the New York Yankees in 2012 ... Liriano is the first Pittsburgh left-hander to win a playoff game since John Candelaria in Game 3 of the 1979 World Series ... The Reds have lost four straight playoff games and 11 of their last 13 ... Pittsburgh is the first home team to win since the new wild-card format was introduced last season ... The Pirates went 10-9 this year against St. Louis. ... Byrd is the oldest player to homer in his first postseason at-bat, according to STATS.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Matt Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals clinched home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs when they beat the Chicago Cubs 4-0 Sunday for their sixth straight win.
With the top seed, the NL Central champions will host the wild-card winner in Game 1 of an NL division series on Thursday.
Joe Kelly (10-5) pitched 5 1-3 innings of three-hit ball in relief of Jake Westbrook as the Cardinals matched a season high winning streak to finish 97-65, their most since reaching 100 in 2005. St. Louis also won six straight from April 30-May 5.
Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso, Shane Robinson and Tony Cruz drove in runs for St. Louis.
The Cubs finish last in the Central at 66-96.
St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook pitched one inning before Kelly came on in relief. Westbrook is not likely to be on the postseason roster and the Cardinals are not expected to pick up his option for next season.
Kelly struck out five in his first relief appearance since joining the starting rotation on July 6.
Randy Choate, Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist contributed to the five-man shutout.
Second baseman Matt Carpenter went 0 for 4 and finished with a league-leading in 199 hits.
The Cardinals scored twice in the fourth off Chicago starter Jeff Samardzija (8-13) to take a 3-0 lead. Matt Adams and Descalso hit back-to-back doubles to push the advantage to 2-0. Robinson followed with a run-scoring single.
Samardzija gave up three runs on eight hits in six innings.
Jay, who drove in a run with a single in the third, extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games with a single in the first.
St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina took the field to start the game, but was removed before the first pitch. Molina received a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout. Right fielder Carlos Beltran was taken out at the start of the fifth inning and also left to a loud applause.
NOTES: St. Louis recognized the 50th anniversary of Stan Musial's last game as a Cardinal with commemorative patches on their uniforms. Musial went 2 for 3 and singled in his final at-bat of a 3-2 win over Cincinnati. ... St. Louis manager Mike Matheny indicated that Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94) will start the first game of the NL division series. The Cubs closed the season losing 41 of their last 59. ...A crowd of 44,808 gave the Cardinals their 25th sellout of the season.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Edwin Jackson would like to throw 2013 out, please, and prove he's worth it to the Chicago Cubs for the next three years.
Jackson leads the majors with 18 losses after making an early exit due to mild side discomfort in a 6-2 setback to the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
"It's just a crazy year, man," Jackson said. "If I had the answer I would have changed it a long time ago.
"It's just one of those years, you just forget it, but you still learn from it."
Jackson (8-18) was tagged for six runs on eight hits in 2 2-3 innings and finished with a 4.98 ERA. He said tightness kept him from full extension on his pitches.
The Cubs signed Jackson, who has a career record of 78-89, to a four-year, $52 million free agent deal last winter. This season ended a run of five consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins.
"A lot of people want to throw one season away in their career," manage Dale Sveum said. "It's over and it's just time to start from scratch in spring training."
Adam Wainwright earned his 19th victory in a tuneup for the NL division series opener and the Cardinals showed no letup a day after clinching the divison with their fifth straight win.
Matt Holliday homered for the second day in a row and Yadier Molina drove in two runs for St. Louis (96-65), which entered the day tied with Atlanta for the NL lead in wins.
The start time was moved up three hours to avoid a forecast of later storms. The Cardinals mailed vouchers to all ticket holders, whether they attended or not, for a game in 2014. The crowd of 42,520 was a few thousand shy of a sellout.
Wainwright (19-9) allowed two hits in shutout 5 1-3 innings and tied for the league lead in victories with Washington's Jordan Zimmermann, who lost his last scheduled start Wednesday in St. Louis.
According to STATS, Wainwright is the third Cardinals pitcher to lead the league in victories twice, also doing it with 19 wins in 2009.
Dizzy Dean (1934-35) and Mort Cooper (1942-43) are the other Cardinals pitchers to twice lead the league in wins. Bob Gibson did it once.
The Cubs averted a second straight shutout loss by scoring twice in the ninth against former St. Louis closer Edward Mujica.
Anthony Rizzo led off with a homer and Donnie Murphy had an RBI double against Mujica, who has allowed 18 hits in 7 1-3 innings with two blown saves this month and lost his job to rookie Trevor Rosenthal.
Seth Maness earned his first career save by getting Darwin Barney on a double-play ball.
The Cubs have lost 11 of 14, scoring two or fewer runs nine times in that stretch.
Wainwright got his sixth RBI of the season with a single off third baseman Donnie Murphy's glove in a four-run third.
Wainwright entered 1-6 with a 5.16 ERA at home against the Cubs. He's 6-0 with a 3.72 ERA at Wrigley Field.
Holliday hit his 22nd homer, a two-run drive in the first. The Cardinals broke away in the third when Holliday and Matt Adams drew one-out walks ahead of Molina's two-run double, and Pete Kozma had an RBI single.
NOTES: The Cardinals are giving Jake Westbrook (7-8, 4.67) a spot start in the finale and Joe Kelly will follow in relief in a postseason tuneup. The Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.33) is 0-1 in his last five starts but has had strong performances with no decision his last two times out. ... According to STATS, Jackson is among five pitchers since 2000 to throw a no-hitter and later lose 17 or more games. Also on the list are Ubaldo Jimenez last year, Derek Lowe in 2011 and Justin Verlander in 2008, all with 17 losses.