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Nicascio helps Pirates beat Cardinals 5-1 for 3-game sweep

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PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Juan Nicasio pitched six dominant innings in his Pittsburgh debut and Francisco Cevelli hit a two-run double as the Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-1 Wednesday night to sweep an opening three-game series between the teams with the best regular-season records in the major leagues last year.

Nicasio gave up one run and two hits while striking out seven and walking none. Signed to a $3 million, one-year contract as a free agent in the offseason, Nicasio pitched 15 scoreless innings during spring training with 24 strikeouts.

Cervell’s two-run double capped a three-run fourth inning that pushed the Pirates’ lead to 4-0 and ended the Cardinals debut of Mike Leake (0-1), who signed an $80 million, five-year contract. He allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Mark Melancon retired the only batter he faced for his first save, getting Kolten Wong to hit into a forceout with runners on first and second.