After winning Game 1 of their NLDS at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals had the opportunity to put a stranglehold on their series. Not only could they not do it thanks to a surging Pittsburgh team, they found themselves on the brink of elimination just three games later as rookie starter Michael Wacha took the mound in Game 4.
Thankfully for St. Louis, Wacha was up to the challenge as he entered the eighth inning with a no-hitter, the longest stretch by a rookie since 1912. A late bomb and mini-rally from the Pirates raised the heart rate of Cardinal faithful, but Trevor Rosenthal was able to secure the save (in a semi-nervous fashion), forcing a winner-take-all Game 5.
Things started off well for St. Louis, who took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning thanks to a David Freese home run. Freese, who despite his struggles this season, has had a knack for clutch postseason hits in the past and he delivered yet again in the decisive Game 5.
The home run to Freese was the lone mistake from Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole, who making his second ever postseason start tossed five innings of three hit ball. Unfortunately for Cole and the Pirates, that one mistake proved to be extremely costly.
The Cardinals two-run lead grew to three in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to a Jon Jay single, though, Pittsburgh began to chip away just a half inning later off a Pedro Alvarez RBI single, making the score 3-1.
Despite his bending, St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright refused to break, throwing nine innings of eight hit, one run ball en route to the Cardinals’ NLDS victory.
Pressing for insurance runs, St. Louis was able to extend the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning thanks to a two-run blast from the powerful Matt Adams who was playing for the injured Allen Craig, pushing the St. Louis lead to 5-1. Another Cardinals run scored moments later thanks to a well placed groundball to shortstop, giving plenty of breathing room to Wainwright who went the distance, sending St. Louis to their third consecutive LCS.
The heartbreaking loss ends Pittsburgh’s impressive 2013 season run, who made their first postseason appearance in over two decades.
St. Louis will now host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2013 National League Championship Series starting Friday evening at Busch Stadium.