PITTSBURGH PIRATES (97-70)
at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (99-67)
National League Division Series, Game 5 - Series tied 2-2
First pitch: Wednesday, 8:07 p.m. ET
Line: St. Louis -155, Pittsburgh +145, Total: 6.5
The Cardinals return home for the deciding Game 5 of this NLDS series as they will look to put the Piratesí season to an end.
Pittsburgh had a chance to finish this series off at home, having built a 2-1 series advantage, but they were nearly no-hit by rookie Michael Wacha and ultimately lost 2-1, sending the series back to Busch Stadium. The Pirates will start their own rookie phenom Gerrit Cole (11-7, 3.14 ERA), in hopes to keep their improbable season alive, earning the start over A.J. Burnett, who started Game 1, but was hit hard (2 IP, 7 ER). Cole will have his work cut out for him against Cy Young contender Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.90 ERA), who easily led the Cardinals to a 9-1 rout when he pitched in Game 1. The Pirates have been a respectable road team all year, going 45-38 away from home, but the Cardinals were one of the majors' best at home with a 55-28 mark. That has included winning 7-of-11 games at Busch Stadium against the Pirates, although their division rival still holds the series edge in 2013 at 12-11.
The 23-year-old Cole (1.14 WHIP) showed phenomenal poise in his first postseason start, evening up the series at one with a one-run, two-hit effort over six innings in which he struck out five and walked only one batter. Thatís been the story of his season as he has posted 105 strikeouts and walked only 29 in 123.1 innings while limiting opponents to only eight home runs. The lone run he allowed in Game 2 was a homer to C Yadier Molina, and that was his only career start against the Redbirds. Cole hasn't lost since Aug. 29, leading his team to six straight wins where he has personally gone 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, fanning 44 batters in 38 innings. And even though heís a rookie, donít expect any inconsistency from him, as he has allowed four earned runs just once in 20 starts season, leading the Pirates to a 13-7 record. That sort of consistency makes things easier for the Pittsburgh bullpen, which is 31-20 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 56 saves (79% success rate) in 2013, though those figures are slightly worse on the road where Pirates relievers are 13-11 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.
Wainwright (1.07 WHIP) was brilliant in his first postseason start of 2013, giving up one run on three hits in seven innings of work while piling up nine strikeouts and zero walks. That one run came on a homer by Pedro Alvarez, who has three jacks in the four games against the Cardinals this series. Though Wainwright has pitched quite well against the Pirates this season, going 2-0 (team 3-1) with three quality starts and a 2.57 ERA, he hasnít always been so good against them. Although he has a 10-4 career record (team 12-7) versus Pittsburgh, that has come with a 4.43 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Alvarez has two career home runs against Wainwright despite a .227 batting average (5-for-22) while others such as OF Andrew McCutchen (.419 BA, 710 SLG in 31 AB) and C Russell Martin (.370 BA, .469 OBP in 27 AB) have regularly gotten the best of Wainwright. If the right-hander struggles for some reason, he is supported by a bullpen that looked brilliant finishing off Game 4 with 1.2 scoreless innings, and now has a 2.45 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in the NLDS, and a 3.42 ERA and 1.24 WHIP for the entire season. Those numbers have been worse at Busch Stadium though, where St. Louis relievers carry a 3.74 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.