With a two run shot by hometown hero David Freese in the 2nd inning, along with another two run shot by Matt Adams in the 8th inning, aided by Adam Wainwright, who pitched one of the best games of his career, the St. Louis Cardinals advance to the National League Championship Series to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. But it wasn’t easy. Down two games to one on Monday, Michael Wacha pitched a nearly perfect game in a crucial Game 4, and Matt Holliday blasted the Cardinals back to St. Louis for the decisive Game 5.
And in Game 5, the former Cy Young candidate two years removed from Tommy John Surgery pitched his heart and soul out on the mound for nine innings.
For the Pirates, rookie Gerrit Cole, who completely shut down St. Louis in Game 2, pitched Game 5, hoping to once again silence the bats of the Redbirds. That was not the case, as St. Louis jumped to a 2-0 and Cole was taken out in the fifth inning.
Pittsburgh did show signs of life, especially late in the game, with two men on and two outs, but a play Pete Kozma did not make earlier in the inning he finally made closed out that inning. In the eighth, Matt Carpenter pulled an amazing double play barely making the throw back to first to end the inning and essentially sealing Pittsburgh’s fate. It was their first postseason trip in over two decades, and while they wished it went better, they still had a heck of a run.
But just like before, it was the Cardinals’ magic when the stakes were high that shined throughout Busch Stadium. Freese had previously batted 0-for-10 before his two run shot put the Cardinals ahead in the second. The only run Pittsburgh had scored was in the seventh inning, after hitting three consecutive infield singles.
The St. Louis Cardinals have proven time and time again that you can never count them out: It was two years ago after all they were down to their last strike twice in the World Series and still found a way to never give up and win it all. In that same season, Chris Carpenter pitched a complete game shutout against the Phillies in Game 5 of the NLDS in Philadelphia, in what many consider to be his greatest game. Tonight might have very well been Wainwright’s greatest game.
The bats by the Redbirds weren’t always hot in the series, and the last three games in the series became more of pitching duels than slug fests. But when it mattered most, with everything they worked hard for all year on the line, the Redbirds did not disappoint. This is their ninth NLCS appearance since 1996, proving they are one of (if not, the most) consistent franchise in baseball. They also have 54 playoff wins since 2000, most in the NL. Second most? San Francisco, with 34.
Next up is a date with a familiar foe: The Los Angeles Dodgers. It was only 28 years ago, when the Cardinals and Dodgers played in the NLCS in one of the most memorable series’ of all time, ranging from Jack Clark’s home run, and Jack Buck’s famous call “Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy!” when Ozzie Smith hit his game winning home run. What is key for St. Louis is that they have the home field advantage still, which played an absolutely major role in their series win. The Cardinals when playing at Busch are a completely different team.
In addition to the win by the Cardinals, not too far away, the Blues pulled off a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, further erupting the city in joy and happiness.
It was a close game for most of the night up until, when, in the eighth inning, Adams hit a 402 foot home run into right field, as the stadium crowd stood in awe as the ball sailed over the night sky. Fireworks shot off, Adams gave his curtain call, and in the ninth, it was all up to Wainwright. With Trevor Rosenthal warming up in the bullpen just in case, Wainwright was determined to finish the game strong. And he did by striking out arguably the best hitter on the Pirates: Pedro Alvarez. With the strikeout, Wainwright and Molina embraced on the mound, and the entire city erupted in loud applause. Backed against the wall, St. Louis once again used their magic, talent, and determination to beat the odds, defeat the Pirates, who were favored to win Game 5, and advance to the NLCS.
The journey isn’t over for the Cardinals, however. They don’t want to end at the NLCS. We don’t want them to either. October baseball is still in full force, and the phrase “12 in ’13” hasn’t rang any louder in the Gateway City than it is right now.
The first three games in the NLCS will be pitched by Joe Kelly, Wacha, and Wainwright.
The NLCS is sure to be another great series, one that might once again go down to the wire. Whatever happens, Redbird Nation will cheer their team on the whole way through. Never give up on the Cardinals, because they never give up on you.