ST. LOUIS (AP) Pittsburgh first baseman Pedro Alvarez insists his success against the St. Louis Cardinals is a fluke.
''The level and the focus that I have against them is the same as I have against everyone else,'' he said, ''I treat the game pitch by pitch, just like I do in every game.''
Whatever the reason, Alvarez continues to pound on the NL Central leaders.
He blasted a two-run homer in a seven-run first inning on Thursday night to help the Pirates break an eight-game losing streak at Busch Stadium with a 10-5 win over St. Louis.
The Pirates moved within six games of the Cardinals with their 12th victory in the last 18 games.
St. Louis, which won the first two games in the series, has won the last seven sets between the teams in St. Louis.
Alvarez and Neil Walker each had three hits as the Pirates held on after a huge first inning. The Cardinals closed the deficit to 7-5 in the seventh.
Alvarez, who also homered in the series opener on Tuesday, has 18 home runs against St. Louis since the start of the 2010 season, the most against the Cardinals in that span. He has 57 career RBIs against the Cardinals, his highest total against any major league team.
''Just one of those things,'' he said.
Francisco Liriano (8-6) pitched six innings and gave up three runs and six hits.
Lance Lynn (9-7) got just two outs in the shortest of his 119 career starts. He gave up six runs, and four of the runs were unearned after a throwing error by third baseman Matt Carpenter.
Walker started the outburst with a triple and Andrew McCutchen doubled. Jung Ho Kang reached on the error and Alvarez followed with his 17th home run of the season, a two-run drive to center.
Liriano and Gregory Polanco added RBI singles that finished Lynn, and Walker capped it by singling home a run.
Walker had hits from each side of the plate in the lengthy first inning.
''It's rare, but as a switch hitter, that's what you're supposed to do,'' Walker said.
After getting the first out of the game, Lynn allowed eight of the next nine hitters to reach safely.
''It was terrible, plain and simple,'' Lynn said. ''You give up seven runs and don't get out of the first inning, that's a poor effort.''
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said it was just one of those off days for Lynn.
''It's not something we normally see from Lance,'' Matheny said. ''Those happen from time to time. You've just got to let them go.''
Following one-run and two-run losses in the first two games of the series, the Pirates came out aggressive from the first pitch on Thursday.
''We didn't play our best ball the first two days,'' Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. ''So where do you go from there? It was really good for everybody to get involved in the offense in that first inning.''
Added Walker, ''We had good approaches early on. We made (Lynn) throw strikes. We were able to take advantage of some situations.''
The Cardinals got a two-run single from Yadier Molina in the bottom half.
Jhonny Peralta cut the deficit to 7-4 with a run-scoring hit in the seventh off reliever Joakim Soria. Molina's sacrifice fly brought the Cardinals to within 7-5.
Walker hit an RBI double during a three-run ninth.
The Pirates salvaged a win in a place where they have still lost 13 of their last 16.
''It was good for us to get a little momentum in this ballpark,'' Walker said. ''Given what we've done here, it's huge. You try not to make things too important, but this was big for us,''
Pirates: OF Starling Marte did not start and is listed as day-to-day with a left hand contusion. He entered the game as a pinch-runner in the ninth and played the field in the bottom of the inning. Marte injured the hand on a swing in Tuesday's 4-3 loss. He started Wednesday's game but was taken out in the third inning.
Pirates: LHP J.A. Happ (0-1, 8.31) will take on RHP Bartolo Colon (10-11, 4.76) in the first of a three-game series against the Mets in New York on Friday. Happ is making his second start of the season for the Pirates after being acquired from Seattle on July 31.
Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia (4-4, 1.77) kicks off a three-game home series against Miami on Friday. He will be opposed by RHP Tom Koehler (8-9. 3.75). Garcia tossed seven shutout innings in a 3-0 win on Saturday at Milwaukee.