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Cards carve out space

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    St. Louis Cardinals' Peter Bourjos (8) celebrates with Dan Johnson and other teammates after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 in a baseball game, Thursday, July 9, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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Pittsburgh >> Now, it’s up to the fans.

Carlos Martinez made his case for inclusion on the National League All-Star team by pitching 7 1/3 scoreless innings Thursday night, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 in a matchup between the teams with the best records in the major leagues.

Martinez (10-3) scattered four hits while striking out five and walking three in improving to 7-1 with a 1.20 ERA in his last 10 starts.

The right-hander is one of the five players contending for the NL’s All-Star Final Vote. Fan voting ends Friday afternoon and the game will be played Tuesday at Cincinnati.

"It’s off Carlos’ shoulders," Cardinals manager Mike Mathney said. "Hopefully, he gets in. He’s very deserving, as are the other four guys on the ballot."

St. Louis (56-31) opened a 5 1/2-game lead on the Pirates in the NL Central. Pittsburgh (50-35) had its five-game winning streak snapped in the opener of a four-game series.

That was Martinez’s main concern.

"The All-Star Game would be nice but I just wanted to go out and pitch as long as I could to help the team win the game," Martinez said. "That’s my job."

Martinez did his job well.

"You can see his confidence keep growing and growing because he is getting better every time out," St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina said. "When he is throwing his fastball at 99 (mph) and his slider for strikes, too, he’s tough for anybody to hit."

Hilo native Kolten Wong appeared as a pinch hitter in the fifth a day after missing a game because of a mild concussion he suffered Tuesday. He stayed in at second base for the final four innings.

The Cardinals did their scoring in the fifth on two-run singles by Matt Carpenter — with one out — and Molina an out later. Both hits were off Jeff Locke (5-5). Only one of the runs was earned because shortstop Jordy Mercer booted Wong’s grounder for an error with none out.

Carpenter and Molina finished with two hits each.

Andrew McCutchen kept the Pirates from being shut out as he hit a 443-foot home run, his 11th, to center field off Seth Maness to lead off the ninth inning. That extended his career-best hitting streak to 16 games.

"Martinez was working the zone, was throwing all his pitches for strikes," McCutchen said. "We didn’t square many balls up against him, that’s for sure."

Trevor Rosenthal retired the next three hitters for his 26th save in 27 opportunities.

Locke was pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth. He allowed five hits, struck out five and walked three after giving up two earned runs or fewer in each of his previous five starts.

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