ST. LOUIS — Nobody's better than the Cardinals when they can't afford to lose.
Adam Wainwright went all the way on the mound and David Freese and Matt Adams hit two-run homers for St. Louis, which beat the Pirates 6-1 Wednesday night and advanced to the National League Championship Series for the third straight season.
Wainwright allowed eight hits in his second dominant win of the Division Series, coming through for the Cardinals in a winner-take-all Game 5. St. Louis gets to stay at home to open the NLCS against the Dodgers on Friday night.
"I wanted it bad. It's probably the most nervous I've ever been," Wainwright said. "I don't get a whole lot of nerves when I pitch. Before I pitched (Wednesday), I was pretty nervous."
By ending Pittsburgh's storybook season, the Cardinals improved to 8-1 when facing postseason elimination the past three years. They also won Game 5 of the Division Series in Washington last year — though Wainwright got rocked — and at Philadelphia in 2011.
Freese homered in the second inning off rookie Gerrit Cole, and Adams connected in the eighth against reliever Mark Melancon to make it 5-1. Pete Kozma added an RBI infield single, and Wainwright finished it off by striking out Pedro Alvarez with two on.
"I'm just so fired up for this team and this city right now," Wainwright said. "Cardinal fans were rockin' (Wednesday), and I'm just fired up to be here."
Alvarez became the first major-leaguer with an RBI in his first six postseason games on a fluke hit that caromed off first base in the seventh.
The Pirates, who stopped a record streak of 20 losing seasons this year, were held to one run in each of the final two games of their first playoff appearance since 1992.
"We were able to take a huge step forward this year in restoring the pride and the passion of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization," manager Clint Hurdle said, "and rebonding our city with a ball team."
Said centerfielder Andrew McCutchen on Twitter: "Not the ending we wanted but who woulda thought we would have made it this far?"
Wainwright was helped by three double plays, two when Pirates runners strayed too far on line drives. The right-hander struck out six and walked one in a 107-pitch complete game.
"Every time we turned around, Wainwright got in the way," Hurdle said. "We were able to be — the at-bats were better, the approach got better, but he kept making pitches. The last two games they kept us off the plate."
Wainwright, who also won the opener, is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and four saves in 15 career postseason games.