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St. Louis at Pittsburgh

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St. Louis (2-2) «000002000230
Pittsburgh (2-2)000000010110

Wacha flirts with no-hitter, Cardinals force Game 5

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- Michael Wacha heard the chants. Then again, when 40,000 people clad in black scream your name relentlessly for the better part of three hours, it's kind of hard to miss.

The goal was to rattle the St. Louis rookie, remind him that 22-year-old pitchers aren't built to withstand the pressure of an elimination game.

One problem. Wacha doesn't really do rattled. He doesn't do pressure, either. The louder PNC Park grew, the more unhittable Wacha became.

"I kind of like it," Wacha said. "It kind of gives me adrenaline. I kind of use it in my favor."

And the Pittsburgh Pirates -- not to mention anyone else he might face in the postseason -- "kind of" need to get used to it.

Wacha took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning and the Cardinals showed off their October poise, edging the Pirates 2-1 on Monday to force a winner-take-all Game 5 in the NL division series. St. Louis is 7-1 during the past three years with its season on the line.

"I think you take high talent and high character people that are motivated and support each other, and they don't give up," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's a tough combination."

One the Pirates are still trying to master. Pedro Alvarez hit his third home run of the series, connecting with one out in the eighth for Pittsburgh's only hit in Game 4. It wasn't enough for the Pirates to advance to the NL championship series for the first time in 21 years.

"I guess that's why we play five," star center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "We'll be ready for the fifth one."

The Pirates weren't quite ready for the fourth one, not with the way Wacha was dealing. He walked two and struck out nine before giving way to the bullpen in the eighth.

Matt Holliday's two-run homer off Charlie Morton in the sixth was all the offense required on a day the Cardinals tossed the first one-hitter in the club's lengthy postseason history.

Trevor Rosenthal worked around a two-out walk in the ninth, retiring McCutchen on a popup to shallow center field for his first postseason save.

"It was a good pitch for him," McCutchen said. "I wish it got a little more of the barrel. It would have been a great story."

Instead, a taut series will head back to Busch Stadium.

Game 5 will be Wednesday, with ace Adam Wainwright starting for the NL Central champion Cardinals and rookie Gerrit Cole going for the wild-card Pirates. Both pitchers won last week in the NLDS.

The Cardinals finished with only three hits, and that was enough. Holliday got two of them, including his home run in the sixth after Morton walked big-hitting Carlos Beltran to start the inning.

"You could go back and look at pitches over and over again and second guess yourself," Morton said. "I don't know where that pitch was. It was outer third somewhere, thigh-down and he went out and got it, he's strong."

So was the 6-foot-6 kid on the one, the one barely a year removed from a standout college career at Texas A&M. Wacha didn't permit a runner until walking Russell Martin leading off the sixth.

Wacha nearly no-hit the Washington Nationals in his last start on Sept. 24, surrendering only an infield single by Ryan Zimmerman with two outs in the ninth.

Working so quickly the Pirates never had time to get settled, he breezed through Pittsburgh's revamped lineup like he was in extended spring training. Mixing his fastball and changeup masterfully, Wacha overwhelmed the Pirates from the moment he stepped onto the mound.

Alvarez got the fans at PNC Park roaring with his homer, and Wacha followed by walking Martin on four pitches. Carlos Martinez relieved and Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina made a key play, throwing out pinch-runner Josh Harrison after a botched hit-and-run attempt.

Martinez struck out Jose Tabata to end the eighth, and Rosenthal took over to begin the ninth. Neil Walker drew a two-out walk before McCutchen made the final out.

"That's what it's all about," Rosenthal said. "That's what you dream of, you dream of two outs in the bottom of the ninth, you know ... bases loaded, the best hitter up, and getting out of that spot."

One the Cardinals rarely found themselves in on a day Wacha showed he's just as big a part of his team's present as he is its megawatt future.

McCutchen came into the game hitting .538 in the postseason but looked at a 97 mph fastball for strike three in the first. Marlon Byrd, Pittsburgh's most consistent player since being acquired from the Mets in late August, watched a full-count heater in the second that sent him walking back to the dugout in disbelief.

It was a look repeated time and again by Byrd and the rest of his baffled teammates. Wacha struck out five of the first seven batters.

"He went out and hit his spots and it seemed like everything we were hitting, we were just missing, just missing," McCutchen said.

Martin remained Pittsburgh's lone baserunner until the eighth. Wacha fell behind 3-1 and Alvarez hit a 93 mph fastball at the knees onto the concourse in right-center.

The jolt, however, faded when Molina nailed Harrison at second minutes later to set up a 24th -- and final -- meeting between two teams that have been shadowing each other all summer and into the fall.

Notes

Wacha was the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He earned his first major league win on June 11. ... A.J. Burnett pitched Game 1 for Pittsburgh, but manager Clint Hurdle picked Cole to move ahead and start Game 5.

 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
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The Cardinals celebrate winning Game 4 and extending their season for at least one more contest. (USATSI)
The Cardinals celebrate winning Game 4 and extending their season for at least one more contest. (USATSI)

Players of the Game
St. Louis

M. Holliday
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 2
St. Louis

M. Wacha
IP 7.1
H 1
ER 1
BB 2
K 9
 
St. Louis Cardinals
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Matt Carpenter, 2B4000032 .067
Carlos Beltran, RF2100200 .286
Matt Holliday, LF4122001 .250
Matt Adams, 1B4000022 .267
Yadier Molina, C4000011 .267
Jon Jay, CF3000110 .154
David Freese, 3B3000101 .154
   Trevor Rosenthal, P0000000 .000
Pete Kozma, SS3010000 .500
Michael Wacha, P2000020 .000
   Carlos Martinez, P0000000 .000
   Daniel Descalso, 3B0000000 .000
Totals2923249  
Batting
HR - Matt Holliday (1, Morton)
SH - Michael Wacha (1)
RBI - Matt Holliday 2 (2)
Team LOB - 5
St. Louis Cardinals
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Michael Wacha (W,1-0) 7.1111291 1.23
Carlos Martinez (H,1) 0.2000010 9.00
Trevor Rosenthal (S,1) 1000110 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Michael Wacha 96-60, Carlos Martinez 6-3, Trevor Rosenthal 21-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Michael Wacha 5-8, Trevor Rosenthal 1-1
Batters Faced - Michael Wacha 25, Carlos Martinez 1, Trevor Rosenthal 4
Pittsburgh Pirates
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Starling Marte, LF4000011 .067
Neil Walker, 2B3000110 .000
Andrew McCutchen, CF4000011 .357
Justin Morneau, 1B3000000 .250
Marlon Byrd, RF3000030 .214
Pedro Alvarez, 3B3111010 .385
Russell Martin, C1000210 .200
   Josh Harrison, PR0000000 .000
   John Buck, C0000000 .000
Clint Barmes, SS1000000 .200
   a-Garrett Jones, PH1000011 .000
   Justin Wilson, P0000000 .000
   b-Jose Tabata, PH1000010 .000
   Mark Melancon, P0000000 .000
Charlie Morton, P1000000 .000
   Vin Mazzaro, P0000000 .000
   c-Jordy Mercer, PH-SS2000011 .143
Totals27111311  
a-struck out for Barmes in the 6th
b-struck out for Wilson in the 8th
c-flied out for Mazzaro in the 6th
Batting
HR - Pedro Alvarez (3, Wacha)
RBI - Pedro Alvarez (5)
CS - Josh Harrison (1, 2nd base by Martinez/Molina)
Team LOB - 2
Pittsburgh Pirates
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Charlie Morton (L,0-1) 5.2322441 3.18
Vin Mazzaro 0.1000000 0.00
Justin Wilson 2000030 0.00
Mark Melancon 1000020 3.00
Pitches-Strikes - Charlie Morton 92-56, Vin Mazzaro 2-1, Justin Wilson 25-16, Mark Melancon 16-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Charlie Morton 11-2, Vin Mazzaro 1-0, Justin Wilson 1-2, Mark Melancon 1-0
Batters Faced - Charlie Morton 24, Vin Mazzaro 1, Justin Wilson 6, Mark Melancon 3
Game Information
Attendance - 40493
Game Time - 2:36
Temperature - 58
Umpires - Home - Sam Holbrook, First Base - Jim Joyce, Second Base - Paul Nauert, Third Base - Tony Randazzo