NLDS roundup, Oct. 7
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pushed to the brink, the St. Louis Cardinals and rookie Michael Wacha pushed back.
Now it's back to Busch Stadium with a trip to the NL championship series on the line for baseball's most resilient team and the club they've been unable to shake for the better part of six months.
Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth and the Cardinals avoided elimination with a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday in Game 4 of the NL division series to set up a winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Adam Wainwright will start for the NL Central champion Cardinals against Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole. Both pitchers won earlier in the series.
"It's going to be fun," Carlos Beltran said. "We're going back home, we have our best pitcher on the mound -- our ace -- and I really like our chances."
So do the Pirates.
Manager Clint Hurdle opted for Cole rather than veteran A.J. Burnett after the Cardinals shelled Burnett for seven runs in two-plus innings in Game 1.
"We have one game to win," Hurdle said. "I believe that matchup is the best we can do to beat the Cardinals in Game 5."
Something the Pirates failed to do at home in front of a record crowd at PNC Park anxious to celebrate with champagne for the second time in a week. Pittsburgh popped the bubbly after beating Cincinnati in the wild-card game last Tuesday. This time, the bottles remained corked after Wacha pitched like a guy who'd been in the majors for years, not months.
"He was unhittable, actually," Beltran said. "He gave us an opportunity to win. We scored just two runs, but you just had the feeling it was going to be enough."
St. Louis improved to 7-1 over the last three years with its season on the line when Rosenthal got Pittsburgh MVP-candidate Andrew McCutchen to pop out to second with one on in the ninth.
"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. 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," 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.
The Cardinals finished with only three hits but only really needed one: Holliday's two-run homer in the sixth off Charlie Morton.
"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 mound, 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.
"He went out and hit his spots and it seemed like everything we were hitting, we were just missing, just missing," McCutchen said.
Wacha's only mistake came in the eighth when he fell behind 3-1 to Alvarez and the third baseman hit a 93 mph fastball at the knees onto the concourse in right-center.
Dodgers 4, Braves 3
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Juan Uribe hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning after Clayton Kershaw started on short rest for the Dodgers in a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night, sending Los Angeles into the National League championship series for the first time since 2009.
Carl Crawford homered his first two times up for the Dodgers, who won the best-of-five division series 3-1. It was the latest October flop for Atlanta, which hasn't won a postseason series since 2001.
During that stretch, the Braves have lost seven straight playoff series and the 2012 NL wild-card game.
Manager Don Mattingly and the NL West champion Dodgers will open the NLCS on Friday against St. Louis or Pittsburgh. The Cardinals host the wild-card Pirates in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday.
Yasiel Puig doubled down the right-field line leading off the eighth against losing pitcher David Carpenter. The rookie charged into second base and pumped his right fist in the air. Fans were on their feet chanting "Let's go Dodgers!" when Uribe fouled off two bunt attempts, then sent a 2-2 breaking ball into the Dodgers' bullpen in left field to put them in front for the second time.
Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth to get the victory. Kenley Jansen came on in the ninth to earn the save, striking out Justin Upton to end it.
That started a raucous celebration on the field by the Dodgers, who rushed toward the mound in a mob. They tore jerseys off each other in unbridled excitement and doused Uribe with a bright-colored sports drink.