(SportsNetwork.com) - With the way the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh
Pirates battled for the National League Central crown, it's only fitting that
their National League Division Series would come down to a decisive fifth
St. Louis tries to get back into the NLCS for the third straight year, while
the Pirates target their first postseason series win since 1979, as the
divisional foes play a winner take all showdown at Busch Stadium.
"You live for those situations," Pittsburgh star Andrew McCutchen said. "This
is the game that we play. They didn't say it was going to be easy getting here
to where we are. We've done a good job of getting in this position. We live
for all those moments. Anything can happen in this game."
On Wednesday, though, the Cards turn to their ace in Adam Wainwright, who tied
for the NL lead with 19 wins and was marvelous in his Game 1 start versus the
Pirates, as he allowed just one run and struck out nine in seven innings.
"We're always excited to see Adam Wainwright on the mound," Cards manager Mike
Matheny said after the Cardinals' 2-1 win over the Pirates in Game 4 on
Monday. "He's the ace of our staff. These guys, they get a lot of energy every
time he has the mound."
Wainwright has won his last five decisions, posting a 1.71 ERA (eight earned
runs in 42 innings) over that stretch. He's also 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in three
postseason starts (seven appearances) in St. Louis.
"It's the biggest game of the year, isn't it? That's what I always tell these
guys," Wainwright said. "Every start of mine is the biggest game of the year.
It's a big-time game against a good opponent, and I'm looking forward to doing
While it may have been a no-brainer that Wainwright would be taking the hill
for St. Louis, Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle had a decision to make. He
could have went with Game 1 starter A.J. Burnett, who was pounded for seven
runs in two-plus innings, or turn to rookie Gerrit Cole, who gave up one run
in six innings to win Game 2.
In the end, it wasn't really a choice, as Hurdle went with the 23-year-old
"We have one game to win," said Hurdle. "As I've done and I've challenged the
guys to do, we need to do the best we can to win that next game. I believe
that matchup is the best we can do to beat the Cardinals in Game 5."
Cole was as good as any pitcher in baseball down the stretch, going 4-0 over
his final five starts, while pitching to a 1.69 ERA. He carried that into the
postseason and was more than effective versus the Cardinals on Friday,
retiring 11 in a row at one point.
"It's obviously a great opportunity for me to go out there and give my team a
chance to win," Cole said. "This is obviously an exciting time, a high-
pressure situation, and this is what you prepare for all year. This is why you
work out in the offseason, for moments like this, to be mentally and
physically ready to go. It's extremely exciting and I can't wait."
The Pirates can only hope that Cole delivers the way St. Louis rookie Michael
Wacha did in Game 4, as he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and helped
the Cards stave off elimination.
"We did a lot of gushing about him before we even got him out there today, and
I think everybody sees why," Matheny said. "I don't know if you can put a kid
in a tougher spot. He came out and just made pitches all day long. He's just
got a knack of getting up there and [being] very business-like getting the job
The Cardinals, who received an MLB-best 36 victories from rookie hurlers en
route to the NL Central title, are now 7-1 in postseason elimination games
over the past three years.
"I think you take high-talent and high-character people that are motivated and
support each other, and they don't give up. That's a tough combination," said
Matheny of his team. "It's just an honor to watch them do the thing day-in and
St. Louis survived despite managing just three hits, but one was a two-run
homer from Matt Holliday off Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton that broke a
scoreless deadlock in the top of the sixth. Holliday had a single earlier in
Morton (0-1) lasted 5 2/3 innings, surrendering all three hits and walking
"Charlie pitched extremely well," Hurdle said. "I think the cowboys say, 'he
drew a tough bull today'."
Pedro Alvarez homered in Monday's loss and is the first Pirate to drive in
runs his first five postseason games, and the first since Willie Stargell in
1979 to hit at least three homers in one postseason.
Since the beginning of the 2012 season and including these playoffs, Alvarez
has crushed Cardinals pitching to the tune of 12 homers and 37 RBI.
Pittsburgh won the season series, 10-9, but was just 3-6 in St. Louis.
"We've played them close," Hurdle said. "It has been a very respectful,
Wednesday's winner will play Los Angeles on Friday in Game 1 of the NLCS.
The Sports Network