ST. LOUIS — Shelby Miller went a lot deeper into the game than his last time out. The Cardinals rookie just had a little trouble with the long ball.
Miller said his arm felt fine coming off a two-pitch outing abbreviated by a stinging line drive off his elbow by Dodgers leadoff man Carl Crawford, but he gave up a pair of home runs as St. Louis lost 5-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
"It feels like I haven't pitched in a while," Miller said. "That had nothing to do with how it went. I just made some mistakes and they did a good job of capitalizing on it. They're a good ballclub."
Francisco Liriano was dominant coming off the worst outing of his career, and Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones homered for the Pirates. The win snapped a season-worst four-game losing streak and gave Pittsburgh a three-game lead in the NL Central.
"You can say the guy was on it," the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter said. "It's one thing to come in here and say we lost the game because we didn't play well or we had a ton of pitches to hit and we didn't do our job.
"This guy was nasty."
The Cardinals failed to build any momentum after a 4-3 win in a 14-inning marathon Tuesday. They are 3-6 with one game to go on a 10-game homestand that began with series losses to the Cubs and Dodgers.
"I think our guys have done a pretty good job of having a short memory all season," manager Mike Matheny said. "You can't get much going. We didn't get enough done."
The Pirates had a five-run cushion after four innings against Miller. They're 8-4 against the Cardinals heading into the series finale matching starters A.J. Burnett and Lance Lynn.
Pittsburgh totaled just 10 runs during the losing streak and won in 2 hours, 30 minutes one night after losing a game that lasted 4:55.
Liriano (13-5) allowed four hits with six strikeouts and needed just 94 pitches to beat the Cardinals for the second time this year. He is 3-0 in his career against St. Louis. His last time out, the lefty was punished for 10 runs in 2 1-3 innings at Colorado.
Carpenter doubled and eventually scored on a groundout by Carlos Beltran in the ninth to snap Liriano's shutout bid. He settled for his second complete game of the year.
Alvarez hit his 29th homer an estimated 440 feet to straightaway center leading off the second against Miller (11-8), and with one out Jones lined his 11th over the right field wall estimated at 392 feet. Starling Marte's two-run double capped a three-run fourth, with two of the runs unearned due to fielding error by third baseman David Freese.
"What can you do? They were putting the ball right where the players weren't," Miller said.
Miller gave up two homers for the fourth time and has lost all of those starts, twice against Pittsburgh. In six innings, he gave up five runs, three earned, on eight hits.
"Health-wise, he felt fine," Matheny said. "He got a couple pitches more in the middle of the plate than he wanted to early. I think stuff-wise, it looked normal."
Liriano retired the side in order six times, twice with the help of double plays. A third double play helped him escape without damage in the second when the Cardinals got two of their hits.
In the three starts prior to his clunker at Colorado, Liriano allowed one earned run over 21 2-3 innings in winning three straight starts.
Rookie prospect Michael Wacha made his first career relief appearance and struck out four in two scoreless innings. He was a starter earlier in the season and wasn't sure how his arm would react.
"I guess it was a little different," Wacha said. "I guess I'll find out tomorrow. I haven't really done it in a while."