As both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates combined for only four hits and a batting average of .007 in the game, it was Michael Wacha, striking out nine batters and pitching a strong 7 and bit innings that came out as the hero, giving the Cards the 2-1 win and sending the series back to St. Louis for a deciding fifth.
It came down to two home runs in the game – one by Matt Holliday in the sixth inning that also brought home Carlos Beltran giving St. Louis a 2-0 lead, and Pedro Alvarez with his third home run of the postseason to put the Pirates within touching distance.
The 4 combined hits tied the mark for the fewest combined hits in a postseason game. In Game 5 of the 2004 NLCS, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros also combined for a similarly awful display with Houston won 3-0 thanks to a walk-off home run.
Wacha kept his excellent form going, leaving the game after 7.1 innings, allowing only one hit and walking two batters while striking out nine, including Marlon Byrd three times. Wacha has made it now two consecutive games with no hits through 7 innings, the first pitcher to do so (regular and postseason) since Dave Stieb in 1988. Wacha also now holds the record for a rookie pitcher going un-hit in a postseason game, beating the previous mark (Jeff Tesreau, 1912) by two innings.
It was also a rare performance of elite pitching while facing elimination, joining Mike Mussina as the lone pitchers in postseason history to allow just one hit in seven or more innings when facing elimination in the postseason. Mussina did it 16 years ago with the Orioles, although his team didn’t make it through that game, losing in extra innings.
The Cardinals are now in familiar territory – a final game of a series, making it their sixth in the last three years, losing only one of the previous five, last year to the Giants in the NLCS.
Trevor Rosenthal was sent to finish the game for the Cardinals, needing 21 pitches to walk one batter, strike out another and retire two more, getting his first save. Most of his pitches, once again, were rockets flying at over 98 MPH. He helped the Cardinals reach another record, as they are the first team in postseason history to use three pitchers in a game, all of whom were age-23 or younger.
That’s what it’s all about. That’s what you dream of, you dream of two outs in the bottom of the ninth, you know; bases loaded, the best hitter up, and getting out of that spot.