The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates were quite the story all season long.
Thanks to St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, that story won’t have a happy ending.
The Cardinals ace fired a complete game as the Pirates bats were silenced for a second consecutive game with an opportunity to close out the series, losing Game 5 of the NLDS 6-1, putting an end to what was a very successful season.
After mustering up only one hit in Game 4 against Michael Wacha, Wainwright showed similar dominance Wednesday night, allowing only one run while scattering eight hits, striking out six on the night.
While the Pirates did manage eight hits on the evening, they didn’t hit the ball hard very often as three of their hits came via the infield single in the seventh and two more came in the ninth after the game was already out of hand.
Pirates’ rookie Gerrit Cole was every bit up for the challenge as Wainwright was.
In a high pressure situation, Cole pitched very well through five innings. However unlike Wainwright, Cole made one mistake.
That mistake came via a two-out walk to John Jay in the second inning. Cole had retired the first five batters of the game fairly easily but couldn’t put Jay away, which ultimately proved big as it brought David Freese up to the plate.
Cole made his one bad pitch of the evening, hanging a curveball to Freese, who crushed a two-run homer to left to give the Cards a 2-0 lead.
That proved to be all that Wainwright would need.
After a single by Marlon Byrd in the second inning, Wainwright retired the next 13 Pirates hitters before allowing a sixth inning single to Clint Barmes.
Hurdle had a quick hook with Cole and lifted him after only five innings for pinch hitter Garrett Jones and it proved to be a costly decision.
Cole struck out five and allowed only three hits through the five innings and threw only 75 pitches, but it wasn’t enough for Hurdle to leave him in the game.
The Cardinals got one in the sixth off of reliever Justin Wilson when John Jay singled in Matt Holliday with two outs to make it a 3-0 game. However it was another costly two out walk that made it possible as Wilson walked Yadier Molina to move Holliday into scoring position.
The Bucs got on the board in the seventh, courtesy of three consecutive infield singles with two outs. Pedro Alvarez singled home Justin Morneau to make it a 3-1 game, in the process becoming the first player in MLB history to drive in at least one run in each of his first six postseason games.
But that’s as close as the Pirates would get.
The Cardinals added on in the eighth off of Pirates’’ reliever Mark Melancon when Matt Adams clubbed a two-run homer to right to put the game away.
St. Louis showed why they are so tough, staving off elimination twice in the series after the Pirates took a 2-1 series lead.
The last three seasons, the Cardinals are 8-1 when facing elimination. They also won Game 5 of the NL division series at Washington last year and at Philadelphia in 2011.
St. Louis gets to stay at home to open the NLCS against the well-rested Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
As for the Pirates, they were held to one run in each of the final two games in their first playoff appearance in 21 years. They haven’t won a postseason series since the 1979 World Series.
It will be an interesting offseason for the Bucs as they try to build off what turned out to be a great season.
Notes: Starling Marte and Neil Walker continued to kill the offense as the duo couldn’t get on base again in Game 5 and combined to go 1-for-38 in the series…Walker’s 0-for-19 performance set a franchise record for the most at bats to begin a playoff series without a hit … This was the 24th meeting between the teams this season, with each team winning 12 times… At 23 years, 31 days, Cole was the youngest NL pitcher to start Game 5 of a division series and the fifth-youngest NL pitcher to start a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS.