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Wainwright's Complete Game Sends Cardinals To NLCS

Andrew Tweedy |
October 10, 2013 | 2:52 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Adam Wainwright led the Cardinals to a Game 5 victory over the Pirates (Herkie/Creative Commons)
Adam Wainwright led the Cardinals to a Game 5 victory over the Pirates (Herkie/Creative Commons)
After falling behind in the National League Division Series 2-1 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals got back to their winning ways, taking Games 4 and 5 and punching their ticket to the National League Championship Series with a 6-1 win on Wednesday night. 

Playing in their sixth winner-take-all game since 2011, the Cardinals are no strangers to pressure-filled games in the playoffs and their experience in October showed on Wednesday night in St. Louis. Adam Wainwright showed great composure during the matchup against the Pirates because, put simply: the Cardinals have been there before.

SEE MORE: 2013 NLDS Preview: Pirates vs. Cardinals

After giving up six earned runs in only 2.1 innings of work last year in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, Wainwright was determined to right the ship. He threw a dominant 107-pitch complete game against the Pirates, with the only real offensive threat coming in the top of the seventh inning when Pittsburgh strung together three consecutive infield hits, leading to Wainwright's only earned run of the day.

Wainwright shut the Pirates down through nine innings, changing speeds and mixing locations, keeping the Pittsburgh hitters off balance and unable to make solid contact for most of the game. He used his curveball very effectively, throwing it 45 percent of the time and striking out six with the pitch. He was also able to make quality pitches from the stretch, taking advantage of three double plays throughout the game to snuff out any Pirates rally before it really even started. 

St. Louis had separated itself throughout the regular season by setting an all-time record with a .330 average as a team with runners in scoring position and getting solid contributions from their starting rotation. Through Game 3, the Cardinals did just the opposite, struggling to hit with runners in scoring position and getting shaky performances from their pitching staff.  On Wednesday, however, they got back to their winning formula, going 2-of-6 with RISP with Wainwright taking care of the rest. St. Louis also benefitted from a two-run homer from David Freese to give them an early second-inning lead and another two-RBI shot from Matt Adams to give them more than enough insurance to feel comfortable letting Wainwright finish the game on his own.

SEE MORE: NLDS Recap: Pirates Take Series Lead With Clutch Hitting

An exuberant Wainwright roared with joy after striking out Pedro Alvarez (with a curveball, nonetheless) for the final out, embracing catcher Yadier Molina as the Cardinals celebrated on the field.

In the visitor's dugout, the Pirates could only watch as their season ended at the hands of their division rival. However, this Pirates team has a lot to be proud of. By making the playoffs, they accomplished something that their franchise had not done in over 20 years, and brought back pride to Pittsburgh as a blue-collar baseball town. All but a few years ago, Pirates fans were coming to the ballpark sporting paper bags over their heads, ashamed to be watching such a bad team take the field. But after this season, this team and this town have a lot to be excited about, with a young core of budding stars led by MVP-candidate Andrew McCutchen that will make the Pirates contenders for many years to come.

SEE MORE: Wacha Propels Cardinals Past Pirates To Force Game 5

Nevertheless, the Pirates' season is over and the Cardinals' is not, thanks to clutch hitting and solid pitching. If they can carry this play over to the NLCS, St. Louis will give the Los Angeles Dodgers a run for their money.

Reach Staff Writer Andrew Tweedy here. Follow @nyy_baseball



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