Wacha pitches gem as Cards keep season alive

Tue Oct 8, 2013 6:54am EDT
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(Reuters) - Rookie pitcher Michael Wacha rose to the occasion with another gem for the St. Louis Cardinals, who beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Monday to force a decisive fifth game in their National League Division Series.

Wacha, who came within one out of hurling a no-hitter in the regular season finale against the Washington Nationals, did not allow a hit to the Pirates until the eighth inning of a tension-packed pitchers' duel at PNC Park.

"I did a lot of gushing about him before and everyone sees why. I don't think you could put a kid in a tougher spot," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said about putting the 22-year-old into an elimination game for the top-seeded Cardinals.

"He's just got a knack for getting up there, very businesslike, and getting the job done."

The Pirates had only one hit in the game, while the Cardinals managed just three hits off Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton and three relievers but one of them was a two-run homer by Matt Holliday in the sixth.

The only hit Wacha yielded was a home run to slugging third baseman Pedro Alvarez that cut the lead to 2-1 with one out in the bottom of the eighth. After a walk to Russell Martin, Carlos Martinez came on in relief to end the inning.

Rookie closer Trevor Rosenthal entered to pitch the ninth and issued a two-out walk to Neil Walker before retiring Andrew McCutchen on a pop out to second to close out the victory.

Wacha struck out nine and walked two batters in a sensational Major League Baseball postseason debut.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was thoroughly impressed by Wacha, who routinely hit 97 mph with his fastball to set up the rest of his nasty arsenal.   Continued...

Oct 7, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha throws a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 8th inning in game four of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at PNC Park. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports