Jung Ho Kang homers twice in return from knee injury, Bucs beat Cards
ST. LOUIS — Welcome back, Jung Ho Kang.
Playing in his first game since suffering a knee injury last September, Kang homered twice and Francisco Liriano continued his dominance at Busch Stadium as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 on Friday night.
"I was a bit anxious and excited," Kang said through an interpreter. "The game happened and it's a relief for me."
Kang, who was activated from the disabled list before the game, ripped the first pitch he saw from Tyler Lyons into the right field bullpen for a two-run homer to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead in the sixth. Kang followed with a 427-foot homer into the upper deck in left in the eighth.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle says Kang has a penchant for showing up under the bright lights.
"I don't need to give him a thumbs up or a thumbs down or thumbs sideways like we do with the replay right now," Hurdle said. "We're going to plug him in the lineup and let him go. He was definitely on time the last two at-bats."
It was Kang's second multi-homer game of his major league career. He hit two off of the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 22, 2015.
"We needed everything that he did," infielder Josh Harrison said. "It's just the case of him playing his game and he came up in big situations for us."
Liriano (3-1) improved to 4-0 with a 2.07 ERA in six career starts at Busch Stadium.
"We're aware of those numbers as well," Hurdle said. "We'd like to take it and put it in the bottle and carry it with us all year."
Liriano fanned 10 through seven innings for the 24th career double-digit strikeout performance of his career.
"Just try to execute my pitches and take one pitch at a time and one hitter at a time and not try to do too much," Liriano said.
Mark Melancon got his eighth save for Pittsburgh, which won its fifth straight road game and improved to 4-0 against the Cardinals this season.
Harrison's two-out infield single scored Starling Marte to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the second. Harrison has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games and has nine RBI during that stretch.
"Two-out RBIs are separators in this game," Hurdle said. "They're special. You feel them. You feel them when you get them. You feel them when you get them put on you."
Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez (4-2) left with one out in the fourth due to fatigue. He walked two of the three batters he faced in the inning to load the bases when he came out in favor of Lyons.
Martinez gave up a run in 3 1/3 innings and 29 of his 52 pitches were strikes. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Martinez was dealing from lingering effects from the flu.
"Even before his last start he was like he was on the mend and things were going in a good direction and then just he just kind of didn't have it," Matheny said.
Randal Grichuk scored from second on a Liriano wild pitch and Aledmys Diaz scored on a sacrifice fly in the seventh for the Cardinals runs.
Marte's stolen base in the second inning was the first swipe off Martinez in 36 innings this season. Only two runners stole bases in seven attempts against Martinez last season.
Pirates: IF Jason Rogers was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room for Kang.
Cardinals: C Brayan Pena (knee) took swings from both sides of the plate from a tee and ran at 75 percent for 20 minutes on a treadmill. No timetable for a return has been set.
"They say that I'm a little bit ahead of schedule," Pena said. "I wasn't expecting to hit this soon and for me to go out there and hit the way I did, I felt like a 20-year-old again."
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (1-2, 4.473 ERA) will start the second of a three-game series on Saturday. He is 2-4 with a 3.98 ERA in eight career starts against St. Louis.
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (2-3, 6.68) is seeking his third straight win. He slugged his seventh career home run Monday against the Phillies and became the first MLB pitcher to get three straight extra base hits since Arizona's Micah Owings on Aug. 18, 2007.