Steven Brault had never pitched more than seven innings in his previous 43 starts.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Steven Brault pitched a two-hitter for his first career complete game, Gregory Polanco hit a three-run homer and the Pittsburgh Pirates snapped an eight-game skid with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.

St. Louis dropped to third place in the NL Central, 6 1/2 games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs and one back of the Cincinnati Reds. The top two finishers in each division advance to the expanded playoffs this year, along with two wild-card teams.

Brault (1-3) had never pitched more than seven innings in his previous 43 starts. The Cardinals got their only hits in the third. After Rangel Ravelo walked, Kolten Wong and Tommy Edman hit back-to-back singles, with Ravelo scoring on Edman’s hit.

Brault retired his final 16 batters. He struck out eight, walked two and threw 110 pitches.

Polanco’s homer with two outs in the fourth off Austin Gomber (0-1) just cleared the fence in right-center and put the Pirates ahead 3-1. Josh Stallings capped the four-run inning with an RBI double.

Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson left after two innings because of right elbow tightness. Hudson, who allowed one hit and walked two, has a 2.77 ERA in eight starts.

Ke’Bryan Hayes doubled in the fifth and came home on Josh Bell’s sacrifice fly.

GIMME FIVE

The Cardinals began their second straight five-game series after losing three of five at Milwaukee in a set that ended Wednesday night. St. Louis also closes the regular season with a five-game series against the Brewers next weekend at home.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Cardinals last had back-to-back five-game series in 1962. St. Louis has been playing catch-up since its season was suspended from July 31 to Aug. 14 because 10 players tested positive for COVID-19.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: Wong (left side discomfort) returned after missing three games. … RHP Giovanny Gallegos (strained right groin) is expected to have a bullpen session soon, manager Mike Shildt said. … RHP John Gant (right groin discomfort) played catch for the first time since leaving Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati after throwing five pitches.

Pirates: OF Cole Tucker was placed on the seven-day concussion list. INF/OF Jose Osuna was recalled from the team’s alternate training site in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martínez (0-2, 10.32 ERA) will pitch the first game of Friday’s doubleheader. St. Louis is undecided on a starter for the second game. Martínez is 5-4 with a 3.49 ERA against Pittsburgh in 12 career starts.

Pirates: RHPs Trevor Williams (1-7, 6.35 ERA) and Chad Kuhl (1-2, 5.50 ERA) are the scheduled starters. Williams is tied for the major league lead in losses with Arizona’s Luke Weaver.

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