ST. LOUIS - Clint Hurdle waited patiently for the double-play ball that never materialized.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates' manager finally made his slow walk to the mound to take the ball from A.J. Burnett, it was way too late to salvage Game 1 of the NL division series against St. Louis.
"Please, put it all on me," Hurdle said after the Cardinals rode a seven-run third inning and another stingy start from Adam Wainwright to a 9-1 rout Thursday. "We had a rough game. Game 164 was rough."
Especially for Burnett, who's had nothing but trouble lately in St. Louis. The key hit was a three-run homer by Carlos Beltran that put the Cardinals ahead.
"It was a grind all the way," said Burnett, among a half-dozen Pirates with postseason experience. "A few pitches here and there, but I wasn't able to string many together.
"It was here and there and then off again, way off again."
The first eight Cardinals batters reached safely in the third, saddling the right-hander with the second-shortest outing of his career. A sellout crowd roared early and then settled in for an easy victory.
St. Louis' big rally began with a full-count walk to Wainwright.
"Walking anybody never works out," Burnett said.
Lance Lynn (15-10) faces Pirates 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.
"What a play!" Cardinals manager Mike Matheny mouthed in the dugout.
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.
Beltran, who has never reached the World Series, reprised his role as one of the game's greatest playoff sluggers. His 443-foot drive put St. Louis ahead and was the second-longest shot by a left-handed batter at 8-year-old Busch Stadium.
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. David Freese added a two-run single that cleared the bases when right fielder Marlon Byrd's throw to the plate deflected off Freese 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 with the shadows at the plate and in the field, the late-afternoon start didn't seem to bother the Cardinals.
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.