MLB Coverage: St. Louis Locks Up 3rd Straight NLCS Trip

It wasn’t a surprise ending, but an otherwise great St. Louis-Pittsburgh series had an anti-climactic ending last night. No one in Busch Stadium had any complaints as some familiar heroes–Adam Wainwright and David Freese–led the way for the Cardinals to win Game 5 by a 6-1 count and move on to the National League Championship Series for the third consecutive year.

The Pirates sent rookie Gerrit Cole to the mound and the kid held up well, going five good innings. But Freese got him for a two-run home run in the second. The Cards added another run in the sixth, and even though the game was close until the bottom of the eighth, it just seemed apparent that the Pittsburgh offense was not going to make anything happen.

While Marlon Byrd had three hits, Wainwright went the distance on just 107 pitches and put an 0-for-4 collar on Andrew McCutchen. St. Louis was able to break the game open against Mark Melancon with three runs in the bottom of the eighth. While Melancon was brilliant all year and as important as anyone outside McCutchen for the team’s reaching the Division Series, there is no denying the setup man was awful in this series. He nearly coughed up Game 3 and then gave away whatever hope there was of a comeback tonight.

The middle of the St. Louis order was also productive. Matt Holliday had a pair of hits in the three-hole. And cleanup hitter Matt Adams had the same, the last of which was a towering two-run shot in the eighth, a ball crushed so thoroughly that a farmer in southern Illinois likely finds it in his crop this morning.

Congratulations to the Pirates for an outstanding season and while it’s too easy to say we expect them to see them back at this round of play, we certainly don’t expect they’ll be sliding into obscurity anytime soon. In a lot of ways, the Pirates of 2013 are like the Baltimore Orioles of 2012–they’ve got their manager in place, they’ve got a decent core of talent and they’re at least going to stay on everyone’s radar in future seasons.

But the Orioles of 2012 ultimately lost in the playoffs because they ran into a team who had an ace pitcher that locked down Games 1 & 5 in the Division Series. It was C.C. Sabathia in that case. The Pirates of 2013 had the same problem, running into the whipsaw that was Adam Wainwright. The Cardinal ace gets two wins, and pitches 16 innings ,allowing just two runs. That’s called being a stopper.

St. Louis will begin LCS play against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night and TheSportsNotebook’s MLB coverage will preview that series either late this evening or early tomorrow morning.


The final spot in the LCS round is waiting for the winner of tonight’s Oakland-Detroit game. The A’s have opted to start Sonny Gray, the hero of Game 2 in matching zeroes against Justin Verlander. Oakland also had the option of going with veteran Bartolo Colon, who pitched well in Game 1 but lost.

I like the decision by Oakland. When you get in these short series, sometimes pitchers just get on a roll against a particular opponent, and Gray has a good track record in the second half of the season anyway. Detroit sends Verlander back to the mound, as he looks to win a Game 5 in Oakland for the second straight season. Game time is 8:07 PM ET on TBS and the winner goes to Boston to open the ALCS on Saturday.