The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates played in a winner-take-all game in a playoff series, they lost Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series when Atlanta rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Braves memorably won on Sid Bream‘s slide into home, just beating the tag of Pirates catcher Mike LaValliere in one of the great moments in playoff history.
The Pirates are back in the postseason for the first time since then and will visit St. Louis on Wednesday in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. The Cards will open as -145 favorites at Bovada with live betting.
St. Louis forced a deciding Game 5 with a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on Monday. Rookie Michael Wacha was brilliant, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Pedro Alvarez homered off Wacha with one out in the inning for the Pirates’ only hit. Matt Holliday‘s two-run homer in the sixth inning accounted for the Cardinals’ runs. The vast majority of the Cardinals players are very familiar with win-or-go-home games, as St. Louis is 7-1 the past three years when facing playoff elimination. Pittsburgh has only a wild-card win over Cincinnati for experience.
The Pirates are making a pitching change for Wednesday. It would normally be A.J. Burnett‘s turn in the rotation, but he was shelled in Game 1. Burnett allowed seven runs on six hits while walking four and getting knocked out in the third inning. St. Louis won that game 9-1. Carlos Beltran‘s three-run homer in the third was all the Cards needed. Beltran also homered in Game 3, his 16th career postseason dinger. That’s No. 8 all-time and second among National Leaguers behind Albert Pujols (18).
Pittsburgh instead will start rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole. The 2011 No. 1 overall draft pick was 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA during the regular season. Cole started Game 2 against the Cardinals and held them to a run on two hits in six innings of a 7-1 victory. He hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in an outing since Aug. 29, which is the last time Pittsburgh lost one of his starts. Cole has faced St. Louis only that one time. Beltran and Yadier Molina had the only two hits off Cole, with Molina homering. Cole was 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA in seven road starts during the regular season.
St. Louis won a franchise-record 54 games at home in the regular season and will start ace Adam Wainwright on Wednesday. The right-hander was 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA, tying for the NL lead in wins and tops in innings pitched and complete games. Wainwright was dominant in Game 1, holding the Pirates to a run and three hits while striking out nine over seven innings.
In 14 career postseason games, he is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA. Wainwright’s career postseason strikeout ratio is 11.57 per nine innings, the fourth best in history among pitchers with at least 30 postseason innings. He and Bob Gibson are the only Cardinals to have multiple postseason starts with at least nine strikeouts. Pittsburgh star Andrew McCutchen has had success against Wainwright this year, going 4-for-10 with a home run and three RBIs. Alvarez is 2-for-11 with a home run.