Wacha, Cardinals Force Game 5
PITTSBURGH - Pirates fans at PNC Park were filled with excitement Monday and why wouldn't they be? After winning Sunday's critical game three against the Cardinals, they had a chance to see something that has not happened since 1979 - Pittsburgh winning a playoff series.
The die-hards suffered a setback from Michael Wacha, a 22-year-old rookie that had not even been alive to see the Bucs win a playoff series. Wacha entered the game having not ever played a postseason game, just like the Phillies' Roy Halladay exactly three years ago when he pitched a no-hitter against the Reds.
History repeats itself quite a bit, but not here. Wacha lost his first career no-no by allowing a home run to Pedro Alvarez with one out in the eighth, sparking life back to the fans who had been seeing their team trail 0-2 at the hands of a Matt Holliday home run in the sixth inning.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny pulled Wacha after he walked the following batter and replaced him with Carlos Martinez. With the crowd on its feet, catcher Yadier Molina threw out a pinch-running Josh Harrison trying to steal second base. After that, Martinez struck out Garrett Jones to end the inning.
Trevor Rosenthal took the mound in the ninth for the Redbirds and finished the game by forcing Andrew McCutchen to fly out to short center field, earning him the save and his team a chance to advance to the NLCS Wednesday.
Wacha's final numbers included nine strikeouts, one walk and one earned run over 7 1/3 innings. After being called up to the big leagues on May 30 this season, it shouldn't have been too big of a surprise that the number four man in the rotation posted the impressive stats.
He averaged a strikeout per inning while tallying a 4-1 record during the 2013 season. On Sept. 24, he came within one out of a no-hitter before Ryan Zimmerman hit an infield single.
In a game that featured seven walks compared to just four hits, Wacha and the Cardinals found a way to send the best-of-five series back to St. Louis for a Wednesday afternoon showdown at 4:07. This time, the fans will be on their side.