For the eighth time since the 2000 season, the St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the National League Championship Series, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 on Wednesday night in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS. The Pirates, participating the playoffs for the first time since 1992, were foiled in their attempt to reach the World Series for the first time since 1979.
David Freese, MVP of the Cardinals postseason in 2011 when they won the World Series, lined a hanging breaking ball from rookie Gerrit Cole into the bullpen in left field for a two-run homer in the bottom of the second. Freese came in batting .154 during the series.
Adam Wainwright, while perhaps not quite as dominant as he was in Game 1, went the distance, allowing a run and six hits.
Pete Kozma, speaking of Cardinals playoff heroes of years gone by (last year's NLDS), made two terrific plays in the fourth inning: A long run and a full-out dive on an infield pop up by Neil Walker, along with a great play to his left chasing down a Justin Morneau grounder in the hole, followed by a long throw to first for the out.
With Cole out of the game, Jon Jay singled home an insurance run in the sixth. Rookie cleanup hitter Matt Adams went deep for more insurance, a two-run homer in the eighth.
The Pirates don't really have anything to hang their heads about. They reached the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, they won the NL wild card, they went to five games with the Cardinals. And they can do better in the future.
Umpire Paul Nauert, channeling the demon spirit of Jim Joyce at the Armando Galarraga imperfect game disaster, cost the Pirates a chance to rally by blowing a call at first base and calling a double play in the top of the eighth. Jordy Mercer appeared to get his foot on the bag before Matt Carpenter's throw reached Matt Adams' mitt.
Russel Martin came to bat as the go-ahead run in the seventh, but grounded into a force to end Pittsburgh's rally.
Via ESPN Stats and Info — is this true? — Cole had allowed one hit on 232 previous offspeed pitches. Wowzers.
Nauert's call. When will the robot umpires come for us?
Who has the better curveball — Wainwright of Clayton Kershaw?
Will midwestern baseball fans take kindly to the sporty ways of Yasiel Puig and the team from Hollywood?
The NLCS begins Friday at Busch Stadium with the Los Angeles Dodgers coming to town.