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Pirates notebooK: Cardinals seek amped up Busch crowd

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Cardinals reliever John Axford stands on the mound after the Pirates scored during Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 7:24 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Cardinals reliever John Axford wasn't exactly calling out his hometown crowd on Tuesday, but he did say the atmosphere at Busch Stadium for Games 1 and 2 of the National League Division Series wasn't the same as the atmosphere at PNC Park for Games 3 and 4.

“In all honesty, it wasn't quite on par with what was happening in Pittsburgh,” Axford said. “That crowd was crazy. It was insane. It was really a great and fun experience, actually, to be in that ballpark and that atmosphere.”

Part of that, Axford believed, has to do with Pittsburgh's joy in welcoming back playoff baseball for the first time since 1992. First against the Cincinnati Reds in the NL wild-card game and then again Sunday and Monday, the crowds of 40,000-plus rose to its feet for two-strike counts, erupted over routine fly balls caught and jeered opposing pitchers relentlessly.

“You could tell the team and the city was needing it for a while,” Axford said. “It would be great if our fans here (in St. Louis) could reciprocate with what that atmosphere was like.”

Pirates lineup stays intact

Manager Clint Hurdle said the Pirates' lineup for Game 5 will stay intact, which means Starling Marte and Neil Walker will remain in the 1-2 spots.

Marte and Walker are a combined 1 for 31 in the series. The lone hit was Marte's solo homer in the eighth inning of Game 2.

Walker has been on base just once in 17 plate appearances, a walk in the ninth inning of Game 4.

“I'm not contemplating any changes,” Hurdle said. “Both men are capable, and they've done it in the past. They've been pitched effectively. I have every confidence that (Wednesday) will be the night they get going.”

Mutual respect

Asked if the rivalry with the Pirates can be classified as friendly, manager Mike Matheny said it isn't so much friendly as it is a mutual respect for one another.

“We respect the talent they have and the way they go about their game,” Matheny said. “They fight until the end, and that's the kind of baseball we want to play. With that being said, it comes down to going out and competing.

“Good history, bad history, we're going out to win every single night. We've seen a lot of each other, and there are a lot of adjustments to make to see who's going to be one step ahead and who's going to execute. That's what it all comes down to.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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