ST. LOUIS -- There are horses for courses, according to an old saying.
In improving to 3-1, Liriano permitted only five hits and two runs, walking two. He also upped his career record against St. Louis to 7-2, and is 4-0 in six career road starts against the Cardinals with an earned run average of 2.07.
"I didn't know that," he said of his career success in St. Louis. "I just go out there and compete, try to keep my team in the game."
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle was asked what Liriano likes about pitching in the Cardinals' spacious ballpark.
"Obviously, he likes a lot about this place," Hurdle said. "His fastball played so well, especially later in the game. His pitch efficiency, command, good rhythm ... he gave us the kind of start we needed."
Liriano picked up 12 outs on only 38 pitches from the third through sixth innings, and never seemed in any danger until a weird sequence in the bottom of the seventh enabled the Cardinals to climb back into contention.
With Randal Grichuk at second and Aledmys Diaz at first and pinch-hitter Ruben Tejada hitting, Liriano spiked a pitch about 10 feet in front of catcher Francisco Cervelli and the ball bounced almost to the St. Louis dugout behind first base.
Grichuk was able to score from second, using a headfirst slide to maneuver around Liriano's tag attempt at the plate, and Diaz made third. Tejada's sacrifice fly three pitches later drew the Cardinals within 3-2.
But Jung Ho Kang, playing his first game of the year with the Pirates (16-13) after completing a 13-game rehab assignment for Triple-A Indianapolis, cranked out his second homer in the eighth off the third deck's facing in left field for a valuable insurance run.
In his previous at-bat, Kang gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 advantage by ambushing a first-pitch fastball from reliever Tyler Lyons for a two-run blast into the St. Louis bullpen. It was the second two-homer game in Kang's career.
Kang hit just .150 in 40 at-bats on his rehab stint, but Hurdle wasn't surprised that he was such a factor against major league pitching.
"I've seen it before," Hurdle said. "A guy named (George) Brett, when we didn't have rehab (assignments), he went 4-for-4 with a homer. A lot of people like to place limitations on a player. You never know what's going to happen. We're going to plug him in and let him go."
Kang's first two at-bats resulted in first-pitch outs, including a fourth-inning pop-up with the bases loaded that was the last out Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez (4-2) notched.
As he threw ball one to the next hitter, Josh Harrison, Martinez bent over in front of the mound. Players went over to check on him, followed by the trainer and manager Mike Matheny. Martinez departed the mound moments later due to fatigue.
Martinez was feeling under the weather during a 6 2/3-inning start Sunday against Washington and took it easy during his four days between outings.
"I felt like I'd make the start with full strength," he said through an interpreter, "but obviously not."
Martinez lasted 3 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and a run with three walks and two strikeouts. Harrison's two-out infield hit in the second brought home Starling Marte with the only run the Pirates managed off Martinez.
Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon worked around Diaz's one-out double in the ninth for his eighth save, dropping St. Louis to 15-15 for the year and 3-5 on its 10-game homestand.
NOTES: St. Louis 1B Matt Adams (left knee contusion) didn't start Friday night's game, although he was unlikely to anyway as LHP Francisco Liriano started for Pittsburgh. Adams departed Thursday's game with Philadelphia after four innings and is considered day-to-day. ... Pirates 3B Jung Ho Kang (left knee) was activated from the 15-day DL and started Friday night, batting sixth. The team optioned 1B Jason Rogers to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room. ... Cardinals C Brayan Pena (left knee) took 60 pitches from each side of the plate Friday as he continues to progress in his rehab, and plans to do the same Saturday.