Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Cardinals beat Pirates, force Game 5 of NLDS

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 Cardinals rookie, remind him that 22-year-old pitchers aren't built to withstand the pressure of an elimination game.

The 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 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 Pittsburgh 2-1 Monday to force a winner-take-all Game 5 in the NL Division Series. St. Louis is 7-1 over 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."

Pedro Alvarez hit his third home run of the series, connecting with one out in the eighth for Pittsburgh's only hit. 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," Pittsburgh centerfielder 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 centerfield 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 is Wednesday, with ace Adam Wainwright starting for the NL Central champion Cardinals and rookie Gerrit Cole going for the wild-card Pirates.

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