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PIT@STL: Walker hits a homer to right field

ST. LOUIS -- Kevin Correia knew he made a mistake.

As soon as Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus connected with the hanging splitter from the Pirates right-hander, Correia crouched down and watched the ball sail toward the right-field seats at Busch Stadium.

What could have been a game-changing three-run home run instead was caught up against the wall by Garrett Jones. And what could have been a lost opportunity was instead a seized one as the Pirates used seven scoreless innings from Correia and timely hitting to defeat the Cardinals, 3-1, on Wednesday and win their second road series to open the season.

"I knew he didn't square it up, but I knew it still had a chance," Correia said. "I was kind of in a position where I had [Albert] Pujols coming up and I didn't want to get behind, and I kind of just hung it. I was hoping it would stay in, and it landed pretty much where I thought it might. ... I was lucky enough to get that one caught."

The Pirates headed home for Thursday's 1:35 p.m. ET home opener against the Rockies at PNC Park with a winning record and their first back-to-back road series victories since August 2007.

Pittsburgh won just four road series a year ago and went a Major League-worst 17-64 on the road, including a 1-5 mark in St. Louis. But the Pirates took two of three at Busch Stadium with strong pitching and timely hitting.

Correia, who was selected in the 23rd round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft by the Cardinals, but did not sign, outdueled '05 National League Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter.

The Pirates right-hander, who went 10-10 with a 5.40 ERA in 2010 with the Padres and signed a two-year deal with Pittsburgh this offseason, scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings, struck out three and walked two and has allowed just two earned runs in 13 innings over his first two starts.

"He had all his pitches working and he was throwing them for strikes, keeping people off-balance," catcher Ryan Doumit said. "When you've got that combination, you are going to be tough. When you have four pitches and you can locate all four of them, it's tough to hit."

"He was very much in control, moving it around -- inside, outside, cutting, sinking," second baseman Neil Walker said. "He was really, really good today, and he was good on Opening Day in Chicago. I think that's a big confidence booster for him, too, and the way he looked is very encouraging."

Correia corralled the Cardinals (2-4) and helped hand them their second losing series to start the season. He had the hosts searching for answers.

"It's the chicken or the egg deal," Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman said. "Are there quick at-bats because he's aggressive in the strike zone with good quality pitches and changing speeds? Or is it because we're coming out of what we are comfortable doing? I think it's a combination.

"I think he pitched really well, and I think maybe there's some guys that went fishing. I know I did one at-bat. But he forces you into that, because he's aggressive in the strike zone down with quality pitches. You can credit him with doing a good job. On another day maybe we could have gotten ... there may have been more out there. But I thought he pitched a great game."

Carpenter, who was 11-2 in his career against Pittsburgh and had won 10 in a row, surrendered two runs (one earned) on eight hits over six innings, with six strikeouts and no walks.

"He's a human being," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told his team about Carpenter. "There will be pitches to hit. He throws strikes. When his command is top shelf, yeah, he's difficult to hit. We kept getting guys out there and we only plated two of them. He's a battler, man. He's a fierce competitor."

The Pirates jumped out front with a run in the fourth. First baseman Lyle Overbay led off with an infield single and advanced to second on an error by Pujols. He then scored on a one-out RBI double to right-center by Doumit.

Walker blasted his second home run, which stayed just inside the right-field foul pole, in the fifth to make it 2-0. It was his NL-leading eighth RBI of the season.

"I thought I hooked it a little bit," Walker said. "Fortunately, he was kind of throwing hard enough that the barrel couldn't get too far in front."

That 2-0 lead was in danger in the fifth when the Cards had runners on first and third with two outs and Rasmus, their No. 2 hitter, at the plate. The left-handed-hitting Rasmus, who had 23 home runs a year ago, pounded a 1-0 splitter to right that Jones corralled with his back against the wall.

"That was the thing with Kevin today," Walker said. "He had enough late movement on his pitches to where he was missing a lot of barrels. When [Rasmus] first hit it, I thought it might be able to sneak out, but fortunately, he didn't get all of it."

Jones said Rasmus "hit it good, but he didn't get it good enough. ... Luckily, it stayed in the park."

Overbay smacked a ground-rule RBI double in the eighth, scoring center fielder Andrew McCutchen from second.

Evan Meek tossed a scoreless eighth and Joel Hanrahan allowed a two-out RBI double by catcher Yadier Molina in the ninth, but earned his NL-leading fourth save in four chances. Comments