St. Louis stays alive
PITTSBURGH — Michael Wacha didn’t quite etch his name into the baseball history books, but he did keep his team’s season alive.
The rookie right-hander took a no-hitter in the eighth inning and allowed only one hit in 7 1/3 innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday afternoon in Game 4 of their National League Division Series at PNC Park.
The Cardinals evened the best-of-five series at two games apiece. The decisive Game 5 will be played Wednesday at St. Louis.
“For Michael to come out and pitch like that in his first time pitching in the postseason, I think that’s a testament to him personally,” Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday said. “Since he got called up, he’s carried himself extremely well for a guy that’s not far out of college.
“To come out on the stage like this in a game where your back is against the wall and to pitch into the eighth inning, allowing such little against a really good hitting lineup at home — I think a lot of that goes to him.”
Wacha was magnificent, mixing in a devastating changeup with a mid-90s fastball. The Pirates did not even hit many balls hard until Pedro Alvarez belted a 438-foot home run, his third of the series, to center field with one out in the eighth inning to draw the Pirates within a run at 2-1.
“The command, the location, the sharpness, all of it was there,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Wacha was lifted one batter later after walking Russell Martin with the Cardinals clinging to a 2-1 lead. Martin also drew a walk to lead off the sixth inning to end Wacha’s perfect-game bid.
Carlos Martinez got the final two outs of the eighth inning to preserve the one-run lead, aided by catcher Yadier Molina, who threw out pinch-runner Josh Harrison trying to steal second base. Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
Wacha wound up allowing just the one run and one hit in 7 1/3 innings while striking out nine and walking two.
“I wouldn’t say it was a great feeling to lose the no-hitter, but my main focus all day was trying to keep going out there and throwing up zeroes,” Wacha said. “My job is to go out there and try to win ballgames and keep our team in the game.
“No, I didn’t like giving up the home run. That’s a little too close for comfort for me. But Carlos came in and Trevor came in and shut the door. It was a lot of fun watching them.”
Wacha nearly became the third pitcher in major-league history to throw a no-hitter in postseason play.
The last one was in 2010 by Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of their NLDS. The New York Yankees’ Don Larsen threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
Wacha also flirted with a no-hitter Sept. 24 in his last start of the regular season, giving up a two-out single in the ninth inning to the Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
During the regular season, Wacha was 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA in 15 regular-season games, including nine starts.
“I don’t know if you can put a kid in a tougher spot,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He came out and just made pitches all day long. He’s just got a knack of getting up there and very business-like getting the job done.”
Holliday hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning, a towering 417-foot shot to center field that broke up Pirates starter Charlie Morton’s shutout bid. Morton gave up two runs and three hits in 5 2/3 innings with four walks and four strikeouts.
Holliday had two of the Cardinals’ three hits as Vin Mazzaro, Justin Wilson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli combined for 3 1/3 innings of hitless relief for the Pirates.
“Charlie pitched extremely well,” Hurdle said. “I think the cowboys say he drew a tough bull today. At the end of the day, Charlie gave us a very professional outing. And it just goes to show you, as you said, there’s no safety net in the postseason.”
Notes: Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals’ scheduled starter for Game 5, beat the Pirates in Game 1, holding them to one run and three hits in seven innings. In the regular season, the left-hander led the NL in wins as he was 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA in 34 starts. ... Rookie RHP Gerrit Cole will get the call for the Pirates. He held the Cardinals to one run and two hits in six innings while winning Game 2. ... The attendance of 40,493 was a stadium record.