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Cardinals' Wainwright delivers complete performance in NLDS Game 5

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 11:43 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright delivers against the Pirates during the first inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — Adam Wainwright joked before Game 5 against the Pirates that his near-disastrous performance in the fifth game of the 2012 National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals was all part of the plan to motivate his teammates.

Then, he promised that this year would be completely different. He was serious about that part.

“This year I have all the confidence in the world in my stuff,” said Wainwright, who admitted his performance in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS, in which he gave up six runs in 2 13 innings, stuck with him for a while. “I know I'll be prepared, I'll be confident going into the game. It's just a completely different situation.”

And it was.

Wainwright struck out Starling Marte on four pitches to start the game and Pedro Alvarez on three pitches to end it. The Cardinals ace went the distance for his sixth complete game of the year but first-ever in the postseason and held the Pirates to just one run on eight hits in a 6-1 victory.

After allowing one run on three hits in seven innings in Game 1, Wainwright said the plan Wednesday was no different.

“After that first game, to be honest with you, they were going to have to make me adjust,” Wainwright said. “I was going to do the exact same thing. They were pretty clear what their strategy was going to be; they weren't going to swing at any curveballs. That's what I kept hearing. That's OK. I can throw it for strikes.”

Marte got an early look at that for strike three in the first inning. Neil Walker reached on a walk, but Andrew McCutchen fouled off the first two balls he saw. He looked at a sinker and a curveball to get even in the count, but when Wainwright went back to the curve on the next pitch he got a big swing-and-miss from the Pirates' center fielder. Justin Morneau grounded out on the first pitch Wainwright threw and the inning was over.

And so it continued.

When the Cardinals needed a shutdown third inning after scoring two on a home run by David Freese, they got it. Wainwright delivered first-pitch strikes to Clint Barmes, who grounded out, and Gerrit Cole, who struck out looking. Marte got ahead in the count, 2-0, but popped out to first baseman Matt Adams in foul territory.

Wainwright gave up a double, RBI triple and a home run to the first three batters he faced against Washington last year, but that was one more hit than the Pirates totaled in the first six innings.

The ghost of Game 5 past was gone, and the Pirates may as well have been swinging at ghosts for the rest of the night.

“I didn't want to see him come out of that game, and he wasn't coming out,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He went up to that last at-bat (in the bottom of the eighth) and there was no way he would look back and get any acknowledgement from me. But he came back in, got dressed and then took a sprint out to the mound, and it made everybody in the whole stadium's hair stand on end because you could see he wanted that ball more than anything in the world.”

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

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