ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Carlos Beltran, Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals gave Pittsburgh a quick reality jolt.
Beltran's three-run homer sparked a seven-run third inning Thursday and the Cardinals got seven stingy innings from Wainwright to open their NL division series with a 9-1 rout of the Pirates.
"To be able to get out on a good first step and play well today I think is big for our guys confidence-wise," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "Gives us an opportunity to just take some momentum, and momentum is big right now when you talk about a five-game series."
The first eight Cardinals reached safely in the third to chase A.J. Burnett, saddling the right-hander with the second-shortest outing of his career and putting Game 1 out of reach early.
A sellout crowd roared and then settled in for an easy victory by the NL Central champions, making their third consecutive trip to the postseason.
"Game 164 was rough," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "One of the things we've been good at is we don't overcook things."
Lance Lynn (15-10) faces Pittsburgh 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 in the eighth.
"What a play!" Matheny mouthed in the dugout.
Third baseman David Freese prevented extra bases in the third with a diving catch on Clint Barmes' low liner.
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. He thrives on expectations.
"I'd love to be that guy," Wainwright said. "It's important to have somebody go out there that you can count on for sure."
Wainwright also started the Cardinals' big burst with a leadoff, full-count walk.
Beltran, who has never reached the World Series, reprised his role as one of the game's greatest playoff sluggers. His 443-foot drive to the distant second deck in right field put St. Louis ahead and was the second-longest shot by a left-handed batter at 8-year-old Busch Stadium.
"I almost got caught up in the moment," said Wainwright, who had a perfect view from second base. "I threw my hands up in the air as soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone.
"Then I realized I had to run."
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. Freese added a two-run single that cleared the bases when right fielder Marlon Byrd's throw to the plate deflected off Freese's leg 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 at the plate and in the field with the shadows, the late-afternoon start didn't seem to bother the Cardinals.
"Everybody was seeing the ball good today," rookie Matt Adams said.
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. ... The Cardinals claimed OF Joey Butler on waivers, three days after he was designated for assignment by the Rangers. Butler spent most of the year at Triple-A Round Rock, batting .291 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs.
The dearth of progress deepened worries about a bigger problem rumbling ever closer — a mid-October deadline for raising the government's borrowing limit before it runs out of money to pay creditors. The U.S. Treasury warned on Thursday that failure to raise that debt ceiling could spark a new recession even worse than the one Americans are still recovering from.
"The president remains hopeful that common sense will prevail," the White House said in a written statement after the unproductive meeting about the political standoff that has idled 800,000 federal workers and halted an array of services Americans expect from their government.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, complained to reporters that Obama used the meeting simply to declare anew that he won't negotiate over his health care law.
House Republicans, pushed by a core of tea party conservatives, are insisting that Obama accept changes to the health care law he pushed through three years ago as part of the price for reopening all of government. Obama refuses to consider any deal linking the health care law to routine legislation needed to extend government funding or to raise the nation's debt limit.
"We're probably through negotiating with ourselves," Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said Thursday on MSNBC.
Republicans who initially sought to defund the health care law in exchange for funding the rest of government have gradually scaled back their demands but say they need some sort of offer from Obama.
Expressing frustration after Tuesday night's White House meeting, Boehner said: "All we're asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people under Obamacare."
The White House said Obama would be happy to talk about health care — but only after Congress moves to reopen the government "and stop the harm this shutdown is causing to the economy and families across the country."
If the shutdown dispute persists it could become entangled with the even more consequential battle over the debt limit. The Obama administration has said Congress must renew the government's authority to borrow money by Oct. 17 or risk a first-ever federal default, which many economists say would dangerously jangle the world economy.
Treasury's report Thursday said defaulting on the nation's debts could cause the nation's credit markets to freeze, the value of the dollar to plummet and U.S. interest rates to skyrocket.
The shutdown stalemate is already rattling investors. Stock markets in the U.S. and overseas faded Wednesday, and Europe's top central banker, Mario Draghi, called the shutdown "a risk if protracted." Leading financial executives met with Obama, and one, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, said politicians should not use a potential default "as a cudgel."
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said the House could easily defuse the worsening situation.
"Get us through this six weeks and then let's sit down and figure out how we pay our debts and bring down federal spending," McCaskill of Missouri, said on MSNBC Thursday.
Republicans planned to continue pursuing their latest strategy: muscling bills through the House that would restart some popular programs.
Votes were on tap for restoring funds for veterans and paying members of the National Guard and Reserves. On Wednesday, the chamber voted to finance the national parks and biomedical research and let the District of Columbia's municipal government spend federally controlled dollars.
Democrats demanded that the entire government be reopened, and the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made clear that the GOP's narrower bills have no chance of survival. They said the strategy showed that Republicans were buckling under public pressure, with Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., saying groups like veterans were being "used as a pawn in this cynical political game."
Republicans countered that Democrats were being inflexible and were to blame for the continued closure of programs the GOP was trying to reopen. A favorite target was Reid, who has made clear that the Senate will be a graveyard for the Republican effort.
"The Senate's refusal to work with the House is an all-time low," Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., said.
Reid told reporters that Obama and Democrats are "locked in tight" on not diluting the health care law.
In an interview afterward, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scoffed at the president's stance.
"He can't get his way exactly the way he wants it because he doesn't control the entire government," McConnell said on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report."
Democrats continued lambasting Boehner and freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the tea party hero who has helped sell fellow conservatives in both chambers on keeping the government shuttered until Obama retreats on his coveted health care law.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and other House conservatives said they met with Cruz and other Senate conservatives Wednesday to update each other on what was happening.
"We think we just have to keep talking about our message, which is real simple: 'Treat people fairly,'" Jordan said.
Republican leaders and many rank-and-file GOP lawmakers, especially in the Senate, had been reluctant to link demands for curbing the health care law to legislation keeping government open, concerned that voters would blame Republicans for any shutdown.
But Wednesday, Republicans solidly opposed an unsuccessful Democratic move to force the House to vote on a Senate-passed bill keeping government open until Nov. 15 without any strings on the health care law.
"Now that we've jumped off the cliff, lit ourselves on fire, we've entered the valley of death," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who has criticized the conservatives' strategy. "So now we've got to keep running and we have to hold together."
The House has approved legislation keeping the entire government funded through Dec. 15. It also would impose a one-year delay in the health care law's requirement that individuals buy health insurance, which would threaten to cripple the program, and block federal subsidies for health coverage bought by lawmakers and their staff.
As the politicians battled, mail continued to be delivered, air traffic controllers remained at work and payments were being made to recipients of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment benefits.
Taxes were still due, but lines at IRS call centers went unanswered.
Halted were most routine food inspections by the Food and Drug Administration and some loan approvals for many low- and middle-income borrowers were thrust into low gear by the Housing and Urban Development Department. National parks were closed.
Workers were furloughed based on how essential their jobs were to the nation: Only 3 percent of NASA employees were kept on, while 86 percent at the Homeland Security Department were working.
Area transportation officials are trying to make it as easy as possible for fans to travel into downtown St. Louis for the Cardinals and Blues games today. The Redbirds open postseason play at Busch Stadium with a 4:07 first pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Blues open their regular season against the Nashville Predators with a 7:30 faceoff at Scottrade Center.
The Missouri Department of Transportation reminds drivers heading eastbound on Interstate 70 they now have the option of taking the new Tucker Boulevard exit ramp and following the new section of Tucker into downtown. The Pine Street entrance to westbound Interstate 64/40 opened on Wednesday. MODOT also says it will not have any work zones in the city of St. Louis prior to the games.
The Illinois Department of Transportation will postpone westbound lane restrictions on Interstate 64 and Interstate 55/70 in the Metro East until 8 p.m.
And Metro transit spokeswoman Patti Beck says the agency will have extra staff on duty today and will be prepared to add MetroLink trains should there be signs of crowding.