PITTSBURGH — Gerrit Cole ended a dominant first half of the season with another win.
Cole pitched seven strong innings to become the major leagues’ first 13-game winner and Neil Walker had a two-run homer among his three hits as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2 on Friday night.
"I feel good. I feel strong. I feel healthy," Cole said. "I feel like I’ve gotten better every time out in some area."
Cole (13-3) allowed two runs — both on Matt Carpenter’s third-inning home run — and six hits while striking out three and walking two. He became just the second Pirates pitcher to win 13 games before the All-Star break, joining Dock Ellis, who had 14 in 1971.
"He’s found out, even this year, that misexecuted pitches can have some bad results," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of the 24-year-old Cole. "You’ve got to meet the challenges of the game and he’s continued to do that through his first half in very strong fashion."
Walker’s home run, his seventh, extended the Pirates’ lead to 5-2 in the fourth inning.
Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his National League-leading 29th save in 30 opportunities.
The Pirates (51-35) won for the sixth time in seven games and drew within 4 1/2 games of the Cardinals (56-31) in the NL Central in the second of a four-game series between the teams with the best records in the major leagues.
"It’s still July so you don’t want to get too wrapped up in talking about a pennant race," Walker said. "But the Cardinals are obviously a good team and they’ve been playing great all year. If we’re going to catch them, we’re going to have to beat them when we play them because you can’t count on other teams beating them, as good as they are."
Jung Ho Kang and Jordy Mercer each had two of the Pirates’ 10 hits.
Lance Lynn (6-5) lasted just four innings and lost for the first time in seven starts. He was tagged for five runs and nine hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
Lynn has beaten the Pirates only once in his last nine starts.
"I kept falling behind the count and throwing pitches over the middle of plate," Lynn said. "You can’t do that against any team, especially a good team like the Pirates because they’re a great fastball-hitting team."
The Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta and rookie Tommy Pham had two hits apiece.
The Pirates went ahead 3-2 in the third inning on RBI singles by Kang and Pedro Alvarez.
Carpenter’s ninth homer put the Cardinals ahead 2-1 in the top of the third, coming after a double by Pham.
Mercer doubled home the game’s first run in the first inning.
Cardinals: Decided to keep RF Matt Holliday (strained right quadriceps) on the DL until they return from the All-Star break on July 17 after considering activating him to serve as a pinch-hitter in this series. … RHP Matt Belisle (right elbow inflammation) has started a throwing program and could return by the end of the month.
Pirates: LF Starling Marte (strained left oblique) sat out his fifth straight game but is making enough progress that he might avoid the DL.
Cardinals RHP John Lackey (7-5 3.09) faces RHP A.J. Burnett (7-3, 1.99) on Saturday night. Lackey has made five straight quality starts with a 1.75 ERA in that span. Burnett has a 1.66 ERA in his last six starts.