Big names again help push the club through to the NLCS for the third straight year.
David Freese and Matt Adams belted two-run home runs and Adam Wainwright went the distance as the St. Louis Cardinals beat Pittsburgh 6-1 to reach baseball’s National League Championship Series.
Freese, the Most Valuable Player of the 2011 World Series, again came up big in the post-season to help the Cardinals return to the NLCS for the third straight year.
The victory in the decisive game five of the National League Division Series gave the Cardinals a 3-2 series triumph and sent them into a best-of-seven clash with the Los Angeles Dodgers for a place in the World Series.
The Dodgers advanced to the NLCS for the first time since 2009 on Monday, with a 4-3 victory in game four of their series against Atlanta.
The Cardinals, who won the NL Central division title, are 8-1 in elimination games over the past three years. They’ll enjoy home field advantage against the Dodgers and will host Los Angeles in Game One of their series on Friday.
St. Louis won the last two games against Pittsburgh with the help of strong pitching.
Michael Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Monday’s tight 2-1 victory. Wainwright followed with a strong performance, scattering eight hits — all singles — with a walk and six strikeouts as he pitched his first complete playoff game. He had led the majors with five complete games in the regular season.
“To pitch a game like that is one of highlights of my baseball life, no doubt,” Wainwright said. “These are the kind of moments starting pitchers live for.”
The Pirates, seeking a first post-season series victory since 1979, sent rookie Gerrit Cole to the mound. He threw five solid innings, but gave up the homer to Freese in the second frame.
The Cardinals’ Jon Jay worked an eight-pitch walk after being down in the count to Cole in the second. Freese was also behind in the count, but pounced on a shaky 1-2 slider from Cole for the seventh playoff homer of his career.
“It was a great feeling,” Freese said. “We were fortunate to get on the board early.”
Adams crushed a two-run homer off reliever Mark Melancon in the eighth inning to give the Cardinals a 5-1 lead.
Pete Kozma added an RBI single to complete the scoring, and Wainwright finished it off by striking out Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez with two on in the top of the ninth.
Alvarez had become the first player in Major League history to have a run-batted-in in his first six post-season games with a hit that ricocheted off first base in the seventh inning, scoring Justin Morneau.
But the Pirates were held to just one run in each of the last two games of the series.
“The last two games they kept us off the plate. We had two runs in 18 innings…so we tip our hat to the Cardinals,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.