Wacha, Cardinals slow down Pirates, look toward NLDS Game 5
Pitcher Charlie Morton was good enough Monday to give the Pirates hope in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
However, Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha gave them practically no chance.
In his postseason debut, Wacha held the Pirates hitless until the eighth inning. The Cardinals got just enough offense — Matt Holliday's two-run homer off Morton — to pull out a 2-1 victory and tie the best-of-five series at two games apiece.
Wacha's no-hit bid was the longest by a rookie in postseason history. The Pirates finished with one hit, Pedro Alvarez's solo homer.
“I think the cowboys would say Charlie drew a tough bull today,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It shows you there's no safety net in the postseason.”
Moments after Andrew McCutchen popped out to end it, bottles of champagne were whisked out of the Pirates' clubhouse at PNC Park. This NLDS is down to sudden death.
Game 5 will be played at 8:07 p.m. Wednesday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
“We like our chances,” Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran said. “We're going back home. We're going to have our best pitcher, our ace, on the mound.”
Right-hander Adam Wainwright, who suffocated the Pirates in Game 1, will start Wednesday for the Cardinals. Hurdle has chosen to start rookie Gerrit Cole instead of veteran A.J. Burnett, who gave up seven runs in Game 1.
“We've won out there (in St. Louis) before,” McCutchen said. “We would've liked to have gotten it done in front of our home crowd, but things don't always go the way you want.”
Wins in Games 2 and 3, and a raucous, record-setting crowd of 40,493, gave the Pirates momentum going into Game 4. Wacha heard the fans chanting his name, trying to snap his concentration. How could he not?
“I kind of like it,” Wacha said. “It gives me adrenaline, and I use it in my favor.”
Wacha coolly neutralized the noise by working fast and throwing strikes.
“This place was loud — my ears are still ringing,” Matheny said. “The kid stayed the course. He trusted himself. He trusted his catcher and the game plan. Then it comes down to execution.”
Wacha struck out five of the first seven batters he faced — including McCutchen and Marlon Byrd, who went down looking at fastballs. No Cardinals outfielder had to make a play until there were two outs in the fourth inning, when McCutchen flew out to Beltran.
The Pirates couldn't knock Wacha out of his rhythm. He used 96 pitches to get through 71⁄3 innings.
“He definitely came right at us,” said shortstop Clint Barmes, who hit an infield popup in his lone at-bat against Wacha. “When you get a good pitcher on the mound and he's attacking the zone like that, it makes it tough to work counts as a hitter.”
Morton kept pace with Wacha for a while and yielded only two hits through the first five innings.
“That was fun,” Morton said. “What wasn't fun was turning around and watching that ball go over the center-field fence.”
In the sixth, Beltran drew a leadoff walk and Holliday homered into the bullpen beyond the center-field wall.
Relying heavily on his sinker and curveball, Morton went 52⁄3 innings and gave up three hits. He walked four and struck out four.
“He pitched a good game for them,” Beltran said. “He gave them a good chance. He was keeping the ball down and really got us chasing a lot of breaking pitches. He did a good job, but at the same time, Wacha also was doing a great job. An even matchup.”
Alvarez broke up Wacha's no-hit bid with one out in the eighth inning. He belted a 438-foot solo home run that cleared the seats in right-center field.
Alvarez is the first Pirate to hit three homers in a postseason series since Willie Stargell did it in the 1979 World Series. Bob Robertson hit four homers in the 1971 NLCS.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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