ST. LOUIS (AP) Gerrit Cole grew up in Southern California admiring John Lackey. A native of Orange County, Cole was 12 when he rooted Lackey on to victory in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series at Angel Stadium.
Cole (16-8) got his first chance to face Lackey on Sunday night and could not have been much better. The 24-year-old righty gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings, and the Pittsburgh Pirates used home runs from Aramis Ramirez, Sean Rodriguez and Starling Marte to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-1.
''I watched him growing up and everybody knows what a competitor he is and we knew we were in for a fist fight when we saw he was penciled in,'' Cole said.
The second-place Pirates cut the Cardinals' lead in the NL Central to 5 1/2 games and earned their first series victory at Busch Stadium since April 2013. The teams are 8-8 against each other with one series to play at Pittsburgh in the final week of the season.
Even the 37-year-old Lackey was impressed with Cole, who threw a 99 mph fastball on his 94th pitch.
''He's a great pitcher right now,'' Lackey said. ''He's got great stuff and pitched really well.''
Asked how it felt to know now that Cole was pulling for him in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants, Lackey said: ''I guess I've been around a while. I knew he went to UCLA so he probably grew up an Angels fan. That's cool.''
Lackey (11-9) pitched well, too, allowing three runs and 10 hits in 7 1-3 innings while extending his streak of quality starts at home to 15.
Cole also drove in his first run of the season with a two-out single over second baseman Kolten Wong in the seventh.
''I was just looking up in the zone,'' Cole said. ''I'm always trying to look up in the zone so I'm not late, and I just got enough of it over Wong's head.''
The Cardinals did not get a hit off Cole until there was one out in the fifth when Jon Jay singled to center on a soft liner.
Rookie pinch-hitter Cody Stanley drove in St. Louis' run with a ninth-inning single.
Lackey breezed through the first three innings on 29 pitches but, after walking and running the bases in the bottom of the third, was tagged for four hits and one run in the fourth.
Lackey exited after giving up a home run to Ramirez, the 38th of his career against the Cardinals, with one out in the eight. Rodriguez added a two-run shot off Steve Cishek, and Marte hit a two-run drive off Mitch Harris in the ninth.
Despite talk during ESPN's telecast that Cole might have hurt his knee warming up before the game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle insisted his ace is healthy. ''I think he showed there was nothing wrong with his knee,'' Hurdle said. ''I just wanted to make sure we called his mom and dad and let them know he was OK.''
Pirates: RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), who hasn't pitched since July 30, could return to the rotation as soon as Wednesday. ... 1B Travis Ishikawa (back) is expected to come off the disabled list Monday.
Cardinals: OF Randal Grichuk (elbow) was activated from the disabled list but initially will be limited to pinch-running. Grichuk could be available to hit by the weekend but is not expected to be cleared to throw until next week.
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (7-9, 4.66 ERA) will start against the Reds for the fourth time this season when Pittsburgh opens a three-game series at Cincinnati. He went 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in his first three starts against the Reds.
Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (11-8, 2.80) will make his first start since spraining his right ankle eight days ago at San Francisco. Dan Haren (8-9, 3.89) starts for the visiting Cubs.